A new indigenous medium-lift helicopter being developed by the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has achieved a key developmental milestone with the successful static load test of the rotorcraft’s rear airframe and tail boom modules.
AVIC’s China Helicopter Research and Development Institute (CHRDI) announced in mid-April that the test validated the design’s ability to withstand the stresses under actual flight conditions and is a requirement under the civil aviation authority’s airworthiness regulations for transport rotorcraft. The move paves the way for AVIC to conduct the first AC313A prototype – designated PT-01 – for its first flight within the near future.
According to company specifications, the AC313A has a maximum take-off weight of 13,000 kg and powered by three Safran ANETO-1C engine. It has a MTOW of 13 tonnes and is designed to accommodate up 28 passengers, with expected missions including personnel and stores transport, aeromedical evacuation, firefighting, and maritime search and rescue.
The helicopter physically resembles the Sikorsky S-92. A military version is widely expected to be developed and powered by indigenous engines such as the WZ-10, although such a development has yet to be announced by AVIC.
It’s predecessor, the AC313, made its maiden flight from CHRDI’s test facilities in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, in March 2010. Despite being described by local media as an indigenous development, the AC313 is understood to be a modernised version of the French Aerospatiale SA321 Super Frelon, which was first acquired by China in 1976 and then reverse-engineered as the Z-8 in several versions for the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) ground and naval forces as well as the People’s Armed Police (PAP).
China is also jointly developing the 42-tonne Advanced Heavy Lift (AHL) helicopter with Russian Helicopters and signed a commercial contract in June 2021, after years of delay over workshare negotiations, to commence research and development work over a 13-year period. The status of the AHL once again uncertain with an increasing number of Chinese firms now backing away from Sino-Russian deals over fears of western sanctions brought about by Russia’s disastrous invasion of Ukraine.
by Jr Ng