Photographs of apparently modified Z-10 helicopters are trending on online military forums, prompting a Chinese analyst on Thursday to note the Z-10 is a cost-effective piece of military equipment with great potential to be sold on the global arms market.
The photos show helicopters in desert camouflage with "Z10ME001" stenciled on their tails, similar to a prototype publicized by Z-10 designer Aviation Industry Corporation of China (CAIC) in 2016.
The Z-10ME was an improved version of the Z-10 in use by ground and air forces of the People's Libration Army, according to a 2016 report published in Chinese military magazine Ordnance Industry Science Technology.
A new engine will be installed that may increase the chopper's maximum power from 935 kilowatts to 1,200 kilowatts, the magazine reported. The Z-10ME also has improved mobility, protection and firepower, the article said.
Z-10 medium attack helicopters can be adapted to the desert and the sea, military expert and TV commentator Song Zhongping told the Global Times on Thursday.
The Z-10 can also adjust to different weathers, Song noted.
"Many countries in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and South America are in need of medium attack helicopters cheaper than the US-made AH-64 Apache but with sufficient firepower," Song said.
Song referred to the Z-10 as a cost-effective choice, over which China enjoys full intellectual property rights. "Therefore, we (China) can offer effective after-sales service and even accept loans and some technology transfer," Song said.
The Z-10ME might debut publicly at the Zhuhai Air Show to be held in China's Guangdong Province in November, Song believed.
The PLA has had the Z-10 for about a decade, and it was "time to explore the global market," Song said.
Potential buyers include Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to Song.