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CAIC Z-10 (Fierce Thunderbolt)

Dedicated Two-Seat Attack Helicopter

The CAIC Z-10 is a dedicated Chinese military attack helicopter in the same class as the Denel Rooivalk, Eurocopter Tiger and AgustaWestland Mangusta.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 10/23/2018
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Year: 2012
Status: Active, In-Service
Manufacturer(s): Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAIC) - China / Kamov - Russia
Production: 139
Capabilities: Ground Attack; Close-Air Support (CAS);
Crew: 2
Length: 46.59 ft (14.2 m)
Width: 42.65 ft (13 m)
Height: 12.63 ft (3.85 m)
Weight (Empty): 12,214 lb (5,540 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 15,432 lb (7,000 kg)
Power: 2 x WZ-9 (Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67C) turboshaft engine developing 1,350 shaft horsepower each while driving a five-blade main rotor and 2 x two-bladed twin tail rotors.
Speed: 186 mph (300 kph; 162 kts)
Ceiling: 20,997 feet (6,400 m; 3.98 miles)
Range: 510 miles (820 km; 443 nm)
Operators: China; Pakistan
The CAIC Z-10/WZ-10 (Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation / Wuzhuang Zhisheng) is a modern battlefield attack helicopter of the People's Republic of China Army (Chinese Army). It is intended to directly counter the threat as posed by enemy armor in a number of scenarios utilizing advanced technologies and guided munitions as well as indigenous armament types. The helicopter is produced by Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAIC) of China and, in March of 2013, it was revealed that the Chinese had considerable assistance from the Russian Kamov helicopter firm in developing the base Z-10 model. The Z-10 stands as the first indigenous Chinese attack helicopter design of note.

The Z-10 is a departure for the Chinese who, until this time, were relying heavily on modified (armed) transport types to shore up their anti-armor limitations. This spurred development of both an in-house attack helicopter solution (in keeping pace with other global powers) and an indigenous anti-armor missile system. Design work actually began as early as 1979 and modern conflicts only hurried the requirement along, particularly the armor-heavy clashes of the 1991 Persian Gulf War which showcased all manner of modern technology to soundly defeat a quantitative foe. 602nd Research Institute headed localized development of the new helicopter components utilizing complete 3D computer work.

The end product became the Z-10 with its two-man stepped cockpit arrangement similar to other modern types such as the Hughes AH-64 Apache of the American Army. The weapons officer sits in the frontal cockpit with the pilot in the rear with a commanding view of the battlefield ahead. Pilot controls are made redundant in case of incapacitation of one of the crew. Tracking and engagement systems are housed in a positional nose assembly as in the AH-64 and a chin-mounted turret houses the standard cannon armament. The fuselage is slim which promotes a very tight forward profile and fits a pair of turboshaft engines high in its configuration. The turboshaft engines power a five-bladed main rotor assembly fitted low on the fuselage top and a pair of two-bladed tail rotor units. The empennage is set low in the design with a conventional tail rotor offset to the starboard side. The tail rotor sits atop a tall vertical tail fin. At its base are a pair of horizontal stabilizers. Armament for the Z-10 is fitted along two short wingstubs as in the AH-64 with two hardpoints each. The undercarriage is fixed and consists of two single-wheeled main legs and a single-wheeled tail leg.

Avionics consists of a YH millimeter-wave fire-control radar and Blue Sky navigation/targeting suite (via pod). Both pilots are afforded helmet-mounted sight displays with integrated night vision optics. The Z-10 can also combat electronics through its YH-96 Electronic Warfare (EW) system. It can further degrade incoming tracking signals through its BM/KG300G jamming pod.

Performance for the Z-10 is brought about by 2 x WZ-9 series turboshaft engines developing 1,350 shaft horsepower each, based on a Pratt & Whitney Canada civilian design (PT6C-67C) found on other Chinese helicopters. Pratt & Whitney Canada is known to have supplied the Chinese with the available software to convert these civilian powerplants into military-grade systems. This supplies the mount with a top speed of over 300 kmh and a service range of over 800 kilometers. A reported service ceiling of 6,400 meters is listed. The vehicle stands at 3.85 meters tall with a rotor diameter of 13 meters and running length of 14 meters. The WZ-9 engines are completely assembled in China with no reliance on foreign assistance. The transmission was completed with assistance from the British-Italian concern of AgustaWestland.

The US government went on to fine United Technologies Corporation (parent company to Pratt & Whitney Canada and Hamilton Sundstrand (provider of the full-authority digital control software)) $75 million USD for their roles in assisting a foreign party while under the strict US export rules. Regardless, the damage has been done and the Chinese retain a viable turboshaft solution for their new attack helicopter.

The Z-10 is primarily fitted with a 23mm autocannon in its turret which can be replaced by the optional 30mm fitting, 30mm/40mm automatic grenade launcher or a 14.5mm heavy-class Gatling minigun. Across the four available hardpoints can be fitted various air-launched munitions including the HJ-8 anti-tank wire-guided, HJ-9 anti-tank, HJ-10 anti-tank, TY-90 air-to-air, PL-5 short-range air-to-air, PL-7 air-to-air and PL-9 short-range air-to-air missiles. As with other attack helicopters of this class, the Z-10 is cleared to carry rocket pods and these arrive in 57mm or 90mm unguided forms.

All told, the Z-10 is believed to be in the same attack class as the Eurocopter Tiger and Denel Rooivalk systems of Europe and South African respectively. It recorded its first flight on April 29th, 2003 and entered service in December of 2010. Some 60 are believed to be in service or on order at this time (2013).

For years, the Chinese denied foreign assistance on their Z-10 design though it was disclosed in March of 2013 that the government approached Kamov for its support in design in 1995. The program was then known under the designation of "Project 941" during its development before the Chinese took the charge and ran with it to produce the finalized Z-10.

Update 2015: Pakistan has received three Z-10 helicopters for trials and evaluation. It was reported that the nation planned to buy some seventeen of the type.


1 x 23mm OR 30mm cannon in chin mounting OR 30mm/40mm automatic grenade launcher OR 14.7mm Gatling gun.

Air-to-air / air-to-surface missiles, rocket pods and cannon pods as required.

Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft Gatling-style rotating gun
Graphical image of an aircraft cannon pod
Graphical image of an air-to-air missile weapon
Graphical image of a short-range air-to-air missile
Graphical image of an aircraft air-to-surface missile
Graphical image of an aircraft rocket pod

Variants / Models

• Z-10 - Base Production Model Designation
• WZ-10 - Alternative Designation
• Z-10K - Variant
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