China’s new Commando Helicopter

PLA Z-8L under trials with Jiangxi-based PLA test flight unit.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) unveiled its latest type of transport helicopter, the Aviocopter Z-8L.

The new 15-ton class helicopter is expected to enter service with aerial assault troops and to play a major role in multiple scenarios including amphibious assault missions.

Bearing a resemblance to the Leonardo AW101 Merlin, the Z-8L is a derivative of the AC313 civil helicopter, itself a copy of the French SA 321 Super Frelon, the Z-8L is reported to be powered by three WS-6 turboshaft engines.

In its first official public appearance, a Z-8L helicopter assigned to a Jiangxi-based PLA test flight unit recently went through a series of tests on carrying and lifting a 8×8 Bobcat all-terrain assault vehicle to examine the stability and safety of the transport procedure.

Equipped with a new type of photoelectric device and self-defence systems including radar warning receiver and infrared decoys, the Z-8L has higher survivability than other current PLA helicopters.

The Z-8L will be commissioned into the PLA’s aerial assault forces to enhance the troops’ comprehensive transport and overall combat capability. In addition to operating in a wide range of terrains including deserts and mountains, the Z-8L can also join cross-sea amphibious assault missions when operating from the PLAN’s Type 075 amphibious landing and assault ships.

Additionally, multiple types of helicopters attached to the PLA 71st Group Army recently practiced takeoff and landing, replenishment and emergency repair on a civilian semi-submersible ship in the Yellow Sea.

If missions are performed around large islands or reefs, a large semi-submersible ship can also be deployed at each end of the islands or reefs as maritime relay platforms to further enhance the cross-sea combat capability of the helicopters and to increase the helicopters’ combat radius.

by David Oliver