China Unveils Its 13-Ton “Brobdingnagian Helicopter” Developed For Search & Rescue Ops In Disaster-Prone Areas

The AC313A, China’s domestically manufactured large utility civil helicopter, flew for the first time on Tuesday, marking a significant step forward in boosting the country’s air emergency rescue system, reported the Chinese state media.  

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The first flight of the AC313A went without a hitch, taking off at 8:55 a.m. and landing at 9:17 a.m. at the Lümeng Airport in Jingdezhen, East China’s Jiangxi Province, reported Global Times, citing the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC), the aircraft’s manufacturer. 

The AC313A will undergo additional testing, and it is supposed to receive an airworthiness certificate during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25) before being supplied to users, the AVIC said.

The AC313A is a 13-ton-class multipurpose large helicopter based on the AC313. The helicopter is outfitted with a new engine type with increased drive power, a longer lifespan, and improved reliability. 

The manufacturer has also equipped the aircraft with new mechatronics, avionics, flight control, steering systems, a health and usage monitoring system, and an anti-icing device for rotor blades. 

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The revamped wide-body fuselage gives the helicopter more internal space. According to Liu Wenqi, the chief designer of the helicopter, “The AC313A switched to use the world’s most powerful turboshaft engines, as well as new reducers, a tilted tail rotor, improved rotor and control systems, and a wide-body structure, giving a comprehensive boost to the chopper’s performance.”

China’s latest large helicopter, the AC313A, successfully conducted its first flight on May 17, 2022, in Jingdezhen, East China’s Jiangxi Province. Photo: Twitter

According to Liu, to guarantee the safety of the first flight, the AC313A had finished a 50-hour iron bird endurance test. An iron bird is a ground-based device used to test the functions of an aircraft. 

Cao Xi, the system’s development leader, said that the AC313A’s avionics system received the first domestically developed flight management system. This system augmented the aircraft’s area navigation system, improved system safety, and considerably lowered the workload for the flight crew. 

“AC313A is a major aerial vehicle model which is specially developed to meet the country’s demands from air rescue missions. It is expected to help the country strengthen the national air emergency rescue system and capabilities,” said AVIC.

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The helicopter can carry 28 passengers and is intended to fill gaps in China’s emergency rescue arsenal. The helicopter thrives at missions such as firefighting and search & rescue as it is equipped with searchlights, fire buckets, electric winches, and loudspeakers.

An AC313A large utility civil helicopter gets ready to take off at an airport in Jingdezhen, east China’s Jiangxi Province, May 17 – Twitter

The AC313A also performs exceptionally well at high elevations due to the modifications, making it an excellent option for emergency rescue and supply transport in plateau regions such as Southwest China’s Xizang (Tibet) Autonomous Region, Chinese media claimed. 

It can also be adapted for missions such as emergency medical aid, emergency control and command, law enforcement, and sea rescue, according to the maker, so it can meet a diversity of requirements throughout China’s diverse terrains and weather conditions.

Why Does China Need Such Aircraft? 

The AVIC-developed AC313 large helicopter was approved in 2012, before the improved model of AC313A. Since its inception in 2013, the AC313 has supported forest firefighting and marine law enforcement missions.

According to the AVIC, the developer improved the emergency rescue capabilities of the newly designed AC313A by allowing it to operate in more difficult environments and weather conditions.

On May 17, AC313A, a large domestic helicopter produced in China, made its maiden flight at Jingdezhen Airport in Jiangxi Province. The AC313A was developed based on the AC313. – Twitter

Natural disasters are frequent in China, and traditional rescue methods are limited in responding to various rescue operations efficiently and effectively. Thus this type of helicopter could enhance China’s capability to conduct timely rescue missions. 

In the last few years, the Chinese government has focused on enhancing its national emergency rescue system and capabilities, recognizing the importance of air emergency rescue, which offers unique and noteworthy benefits such as quick response and successful operations.

The AC313A and other indigenous aircraft will help the country’s comprehensive emergency response capabilities.