China Replicates US Technology; Develops Black Hawk Helicopters, Hellfire ATG Missiles

Recently, China successfully test-fired an advanced air-to-ground (ATG) missile. The ATG missile, which is similar to the US Hellfire missile, was fired from a helicopter in Inner Mongolia region and crashed into its target, SCMP cited China Aviation News.

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The Chinese ATG missile, whose name and specifications have not been revealed, is a stand-off weapon, meaning it can be launched from a distance sufficient to allow attacking personnel to circumvent defensive fire.

The Chinese ATG missile, as per the report, is a long-range missile with multiple guided systems and has the ability to evade jamming. It has been developed by the China Helicopter Research and Development Institute and despite the project being delayed due to coronavirus, it is now back on track, the report said.

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Once fully operational, the new ATG missile could replace the AKD-9 and AKD-10 anti-tank missiles and YJ-9 anti-ship missiles already in service, the report said. Unlike the earlier versions, the new ATG missile is not limited to use with just one type of helicopter, making it similar to the US AGM-114 “Hellfire” series.

Song Zhongping, a military expert said that having a single missile capable of striking fixed ground positions, bulletproof, armoured vehicles and even naval vessels, would make it much easier and faster to prepare and maintain the helicopters, rather than having to consider multiple armament options.

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“An all-purpose munition could speed up the response and also largely improve its overall combat capability,” he said.

Chinese PLA already had the indigenous TY-90 air-to-air missile. A combination of the new weapon and the TY-90 – which was the first of its kind in the world – plus rocket bombs would boost the attack power of the PLA Ground Force’s aviation units, Song said.

The force has several attack helicopters, including the home-grown Z-10 and Z-20, and the Z-19 which was modified from the Z-9, which in turn was based on the French “Dolphin”.

Chinese state media – The Global Times called the Z-20 helicopters as a medium-lift helicopter that “can adapt to all kinds of terrain and weather and can be used on missions including personnel and cargo transport, search and rescue and reconnaissance”.

GT cited a defence expert saying, “The Z-20 can operate in oxygen-depleted plateaus (a reference to Ladakh where Indian and Chinese soldiers are at loggerheads) thanks to its powerful homemade engine.”

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Experts believe that the Z-20 was derived from the US designed UH-60 Black Hawk family of helicopters. In the 1980s, the US had sold China a civilian version of the Black Hawk for operations in Tibet. China has also developed a naval version of the Z-20, images of which emerged last year.