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Harbin Z-5

Transport / Utility Helicopter


As with other Cold War-era Chinese military products, the Harbin Z-5 was nothing more than a copy of an existing Soviet design - in this case, the Mil Mi-4 series.

Detailing the development and operational history of the Harbin Z-5 Transport / Utility Helicopter.  Entry last updated on 10/25/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
One-time close political ties between the Soviet Union and China allowed for the passing of military goods to the latter. While this included the basic tanks, armored vehicles and small arms, it also included airpower in the form of interceptors, bombers and helicopters. One such product passed into China hands was the Mil Mi-4 series transport / utility helicopter to be produced locally, under license, from available blueprints. The Mi-4 would therefore become the Harbin Z-5 in the Chinese inventory. Between 545 and 575 examples were produced under the Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation label. However, political relations between the two communist nations eventually soured, leading to the Sino-Soviet Split of 1960-1989.

The original Mi-4 went airborne in prototype form on June 3rd, 1952 and was introduced into Soviet Air Force service in 1953. From the period of 1951 to 1979, over 3,500 of the type were produced. There proved many global recipients of the type including Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Egypt, Finland, Iraq and Poland covering much of Asia and portions of the Pacific and Africa. The helicopter was conventional in its rotary-wing approach, fitted with a single Shvetsov ASh-82V radial piston engine outputting at 1,675 horsepower. Its outward design was noticeably distinct with a high-mounted fight deck, rounded nose cone assembly and low-set passenger cabin. The empennage was high-mounted with an internal shaft running from the fuselage to the tail to power the tail rotor seated on a small fin. The undercarriage was fixed with four legs - two forward on the fuselage and two set rearwards. The frontal legs featured positional wheels. Production was undertaken by the Mil Moscow Helicopter Plant.

The Chinese Z-5 prototype was completed and achieved its first flight on December 14th, 1959. Developmental delays saw to it that quantitative serial production did not begin until 1964 and it was only then that the Z-5 was formally adopted by the Chinese Army, Navy and Air Force. The Z-5 was an unarmed basic transport with utility cargo-handling as secondary. The Chinese variant also cut into possible Soviet foreign sales of their Mi-4 as the Z-5 was also successfully offered to Chinese-allied customers - mainly Albania with 40 examples and North Korea with 50 examples. Overall, the Z-5 design remained faithful to the original Soviet offering and, externally, were essentially identical.

In 1966 - with the worldwide shift to turboshaft-engined helicopters - Harbin began work on a turboshaft-powered variant (Wozhou-5) of the Z-5 recognized as the Harbin Z-6. This endeavor was then passed onto the now-established Helicopter Design Research Institute which produced a viable prototype for testing, first flight being achieved on December 15th, 1969. With the fatal loss of one prototype and production shifting to other locations, the program suffered through a long period of delays including the upheaval forming from the "Cultural Revolution". The program was eventually given up for good with just eleven vehicles completed.

While outmoded and severely ages, Z-5 helicopters of the Chinese military are thought to still be retained in reserve status. However, their capabilities are limited on the modern battlefield and would most likely not be brought into battle unless absolutely required. As with other utility types, the Z-5 could be basically armed, primarily with machine guns, machine gun pods and lightweight rocket pods or launch rails - helping to broaden the tactical flexibility of the system to an extent, becoming an armed transport or dedicated gunship.


YEAR: 1965
STATUS: Active, Limited Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation - China
LENGTH: 55.12 ft (16.8 m)
WIDTH: 68.90 ft (21 m)
HEIGHT: 16.99 ft (5.18 m)
EMPTY WEIGHT: 11,023 lb (5,000 kg)
MTOW: 17,196 lb (7,800 kg)
POWER: 1 x Shvetsov ASh-82V 18-cylinder radial piston engine developing 1,700 horsepower while driving a four-bladed main rotor and three-bladed tail rotor.
SPEED: 130 mph (210 kph; 113 kts)
CEILING: 19,685 feet (6,000 m; 3.73 miles)
RANGE: 249 miles (400 km; 216 nm)
OPERATORS: Albania; China; North Korea

Usually none. Could be armed with machine guns, machine gun pods, rocked pods or launch rails for use as an ad hoc gunship or armed transport.
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft machine gun pod
Variants / Models

• Z-5 - Base Series Designation
• Z-6 - Proposed turboshaft-engined Z-5; 11 examples produced.
• Xuanfeng - Civilian Market Passenger Transport

Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 150mph
Lo: 75mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (130mph).

Graph average of 112.5 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Harbin Z-5's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (575)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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