The recent agreement signed by Russian Helicopters and China’s Avicopter to develop a heavy-lift rotorcraft bolsters the already long-standing ties between the two countries. Avicopter and its predecessors have produced rotorcraft since the late 1950s, and this cooperation with Russian know-how should make for a successful partnership.
Forecast International said that while Russian Helicopters is well known, the name Avicopter is relatively new to the scene. When the names Harbin and Changhe are added under the auspices of Avicopter, the scene becomes clearer. Both companies, known for military rotorcraft, are indeed subsidiaries of Avicopter, which itself falls under the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). The conglomerate is therefore the only producer of helicopters in China, and its designs have made a name for themselves in the aviation world. Harbin and Changhe military rotorcraft, denoted by the “Z” in their designation, have been in production for some time.
The Z-9 is probably one of the best known of the Z series of rotorcraft. It has a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 4 tons, placing the platform in the light utility category. More than 400 units have been produced to date. Production is slated to continue into the next decade, with a possibility for more international orders. Along with utility helicopters, Avicopter is also a producer of attack platforms.
The Z-10 is a heavy attack helicopter similar in function and layout to the AH-64 Apache. Developed by the Kamov design bureau for China, the rotorcraft is being produced by Changhe. A smaller cousin to the Z-10, the Z-19, is based on the Z-9 and is intended as a light attack/reconnaissance platform. Both rotorcraft are designed to complement each other in combat situations.
With a long history of military applications, Avicopter has recently broken into the civilian market. Avicopter’s civilian helicopters are designated “AC” and cover a wide spectrum of sizes and missions. The smallest aircraft in production is the AC310, which is in the 1-ton-MTOW range. With the ability to carry up to three passengers, including the pilot, the rotorcraft is aimed at private customers and flying clubs in China.
The AC311 is a helicopter with a 2-ton MTOW and the ability to accommodate six passengers, including two pilots. It is powered by either a Honeywell or Safran engine, depending on model, and is currently in production. The AC311 can be adapted for a variety of missions such as air patrol, law enforcement, and tourism.
Avicopter is developing larger aircraft for the civilian market as well. The AC312 and AC313 are of the medium and large class, respectively. The AC312 is in the 4-ton class while the AC313 has an MTOW of 13 tons. Both aircraft have their roots in Harbin and Changhe military designs. The AC312 is derived from the Z-9, while the AC313 is a civilian version of the Z-8. They both have extensive potential uses in the civilian sector.
Other rotorcraft, both military and civil, have been reported to be under development; however, information is difficult to obtain. With their long history, Avicopter and its subsidiaries are growing in strength and confidence producing competitive rotorcraft. The partnership with Russian Helicopters has the potential to be fruitful.