China’s Z-20 tactical helicopter uses fly-by-wire system
China’s Z-20 tactical helicopter uses fly-by-wire system Andrew Tate, London - Jane's Defence Weekly
09 October 2019
The Z-20 is the first Chinese-produced helicopter to use fly-by-wire flight controls, according to Chinese state media. Source: Via haohanfw.com
The Z-20 tactical helicopter is the first Chinese-produced rotorcraft to incorporate fly-by-wire flight controls, according to a 7 October report in the state-owned Global Times newspaper, citing an interview with Z-20 pilot Song Xinning broadcast by state television CCTV.
The Z-20, which made its official public debut in a fly-past during the People's Republic of China's National Day Parade in Beijing on 1 October, is assessed to have entered service with the PLA Ground Force (PLAGF) by May 2019. It is a medium-lift helicopter in the 10-tonne class that is very similar in appearance to the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk.
Although fly-by-wire systems are widely used in fixed-wing aircraft, they have not been widely adopted for rotorcraft. That said, the first fly-by-wire production helicopter was the NHIndustries NH90, which first entered service in 2006 with the German Army, but subsequently no other US or European helicopters in large-scale production have taken this route.
A 2008 upgrade programme for the Black Hawk included the adoption of fly-by-wire but this was subsequently dropped to reduce cost and implementation timescales. However, the technology has resurfaced, replacing the mechanical flight control systems in an early production Black Hawk airframe that is now being used for the Optionally Piloted Vehicle (OPV) development programme of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Initial piloted test flights took place in May 2019 and the programme anticipates fully autonomous flights, without pilots, in 2020.
The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter, which is the replacement for the CH-53E Super Stallion used by the US Marine Corps, will incorporate fly-by-wire.
China's Z-20 chopper features powerful homemade engine: maker
By Liu Xuanzun and Liu Yang in Tianjin Source:Globaltimes.cn Published: 2019/10/10 2:09:38
A Z-20 utility helicopter is on display prior to the 5th China Helicopter Exposition in Tianjin on October 9, 2019. Photo: Xu Luming/GT
China's latest commissioned and fully domestic manufactured military helicopter, the Z-20, is equipped with a homemade engine powerful enough for it to fly in low-oxygen plateaus, and features world-leading innovative technology, said the chopper's makers on Wednesday.
The Z-20 made its public debut at the National Day parade on October 1. At the 2019 China Helicopter Development Forum in Tianjin on Wednesday, Wang Xibao, chief engineer at Harbin Aircraft Industry Group under the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), told the Global Times that it is "of an advanced level in the 21st century."
"It uses many technologies that should be considered advanced in the world, including the active vibration control, fly-by-wire, low-noise design for rotor and high performance aerodynamic design of the rotor," Wang said.
Li Linhua, chief technology expert at China Helicopter Research and Development Institute of the AVIC, said that during its development, many technological innovations were applied. Li also noted that only a few countries have helicopters with advanced fly-by-wire technology.
The Z-20 was entirely made in China, said Chen Guang, vice general manager of AVICOPTER, the helicopter branch of the AVIC, to the Global Times.
As China's latest utility helicopter, one area the Z-20 will operate in is plateaus, Chen said, noting that despite the lack of oxygen in high-altitude areas, the homemade engine is powerful enough thanks to technological breakthroughs.
The Z-20 will contribute to China's future helicopter development as new models can learn from its advanced technologies, Chen said.
The Z-20 is expected to make its first exhibition appearance at the 5th China Helicopter Exposition in Tianjin, which runs from Thursday to Sunday.
In addition to flight performances by the Fenglei aerobatic team of the People's Liberation Army, it will put on a static display at the event.
The craftsmanship of the helicopter's fuselage is excellent, as the surface seems smooth even at joint points. The large cockpit windows take up over half of the space of the aircraft's nose, with two extra windows on the floors of the cockpit, giving pilots a very wide view, the Global Times reporters observed on Wednesday after closely watched the helicopter.
Traditional, complicated dashboards are not found in the cockpit. Instead, the control panels use multifunctional screens. The helicopters' interior is wide and can store more equipment.
The Z-20 is a medium-lift utility helicopter that can adapt to different terrains and weather and can be used on missions including personnel and cargo transport, search and rescue, reconnaissance and anti-submarine operations, experts said.
Thus, it seems quite possible that this latest “indigenous” creation from China was heavily inspired by foreign designs. There would be extensive precedent for this. Besides China’s general history of cloning foreign defense technology, last year it unveiled a new helicopter, the Z-10/WZ-10 attack helicopter, which it claimed was designed and built indigenously. Earlier this year, however, Sergei Mikheyev, General Designer of the Kamov Design Bureau, a Russian helicopter designer, revealed that his company had secretly provided China with the initial designs of the Z-10/WZ-10 in the mid-1990s. Some have speculated that China has also cloned Boeing’s AH-64D Apache.
Still, The Aviationist points out that there are some notable differences between America’s Black Hawk and the Z-20. Specifically, the Z-20 has a 5-blade rotor compared to the 4-blade rotor on the Black Hawk, a larger cabin and a different landing gear and tail. Based on the location of the flight test, Aviation Week suspects that it was built by Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation (HAMC).