A domestically made Z-20 medium-lift utility helicopter bearing an army serial number takes flight at an unknown location and time. Photo: screenshot from China Central Television
By Liu Xuanzun
An echelon of China's domestically developed Z-20 helicopters was spotted on Monday in a video that was purported in the media to be a rehearsal for the upcoming National Day parade, leading analysts to believe that the country's newest chopper could make its public debut at the October 1 event.
Multiple Z-20 helicopters, and other military choppers, flew in formation near southeast Beijing's Yizhuang area, as seen in a video the Aerospace Knowledge magazine posted on its Sina Weibo account on Monday.
The Z-20 echelon seems to be preparing for the military parade that will celebrate the 70th birthday of the People's Republic of China, the Aerospace Knowledge magazine said.
"The Z-20 has been in trials for some time now, so it will not surprise me if it makes its public debut in the parade on October 1," a military expert who asked not to be named told the Global Times on Tuesday.
The Z-20 is a 10 ton-class medium-lift utility helicopter often compared to the US' UH-60 Black Hawk. It can have different versions to adapt to different terrain and weather, and is expected to be used by both the army and navy, analysts said, noting it could operate on plateaus and naval vessels.
As a utility helicopter it can be used in many types of missions including personnel and cargo transport, search and rescue, reconnaissance and anti-submarine, the expert said.
China's Ministry of National Defense confirmed the Z-20's development in 2013, when media reported a Z-20 made a trial flight at that time.
There have been multiple sightings of the helicopter since then, including one in May featuring a Z-20 painted with an army serial number, an indication of commissioning into the military, Weihutang, a column on military affairs affiliated with China Central Television, reported, citing foreign reports.
China has yet to officially announce the commissioning of the helicopter, but military enthusiasts are eagerly waiting to see it as they consider the Z-20 a member of China's most advanced "20 series" aircraft, with the others being the J-20 stealth fighter jet, the Y-20 large transport plane and the H-20 strategic bomber.