Attack copter takes to skies
Updated: 2012-11-14 03:31
By Wang Wen and Zhao Lei in Zhuhai, Guangdong (China Daily)
Stuntwomen from the Breitling Wingwalkers, a European aerobatic team, go through their paces on two biplanes at the opening of the Zhuhai Airshow in Guangdong province on Tuesday. Li Jianshu / For China Daily
More orders announced for C919 passenger aircraft at airshow
The Zhuhai Airshow, the largest showcase for the nation's aviation and aerospace industry, soared into the skies above Guangdong province with more aircraft than ever before.
A crowd favorite was the public debut of the WZ-10, China's attack helicopter, nicknamed Thunder Fire.
But not all the action was in the air. The Commercial Aircraft Corp of China announced it had clinched orders for a total of 380 C919 aircraft, China's homegrown mid-sized passenger jet.
The company said it has so far received orders from 15 buyers. Two domestic airlines, Hebei Aviation Group and the Xi'an-based Joy Air, each recently placed orders for 20 single-aisle, 150-seat passenger planes.
The WZ-10 was designed primarily for anti-tank missions but also has air-to-air capability.
The helicopter is developed and produced by Changhe Aircraft Industries in Jiangxi province, which is affiliated with the Aviation Industry Corp of China. The program was jointly carried out by more than 40 research institutes across the country.
The origin of the WZ-10 can be traced back to the early 1990s after the Chinese military leadership observed the success of US helicopters during the Gulf War.
Grainy and unverified photos of a Chinese attack helicopter have since appeared occasionally in Western aviation publications and websites.
But in January 2011 rumors gained momentum that the helicopter was close to entering service.
"We had waited so long for the public appearance of the WZ-10," said Liu Pei, a military enthusiast from Jiangsu province.
"We always had confidence that our country could eventually develop its own specialized attack helicopter.''
Overseas military observers claimed developers at the Aviation Industry Corp of China first installed the PT6C-67C, a turboshaft engine manufactured by Pratt & Whitney Canada, on the prototypes of the WZ-10.
However, developers had to adjust the original design after the US forced the Canadian company to terminate cooperation with China.
As a result, China accelerated the development of the Wozhou-9, an engine that China enjoys full intellectual property rights over.
The WZ-10 is one of the top three attack helicopters in the world, according to Wu Ximing, chief designer of the WZ-10.
Compared with the US AH-64 Apache, the WZ-10 has superior maneuverability and combat capability, though it lacks its thrust and firepower, he added.
"I think the low-altitude maneuverability of the WZ-10 is better than that of the Apache and the Russian Mil Mi-28, and the WZ-10 is difficult to pick up on radar,'' a senior Chinese military analyst, who declined to be named, said.
"Generally speaking, the WZ-10 is a big advance for the development of the PLA ground force aviation wing."
Another light armed reconnaissance helicopter, the WZ-19, or Black Tornado, also made its maiden public appearance on Tuesday.
It is also developed and manufactured by the Aviation Industry Corp of China and will be used primarily for reconnaissance and supporting ground forces, experts said.
"The WZ-10 and WZ-19 can supplement each other in combat with the WZ-10 being an advanced attack helicopter and the WZ-19 playing a supporting role," Wu Peixin, an editor at Aerospace Knowledge, said.
"They represent the advanced specialized military helicopters in the world, and more important, their entry into service enables China to develop ground aviation forces without being disrupted or contained by anyone else."
The C919 also broke new ground with five confirmed and five optional orders from GE Capital Aviation Service.
The US aircraft leasing company ordered 10 C919 aircraft in 2010.
"Increasing orders show that both domestic and foreign consumers have given the C919 their endorsement,'' said He Dongfeng, general manager of the Commercial Aircraft Corp of China.
The aircraft will be using the world's leading technology and is competitive, he added.
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