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Possible New Variant of China’s Z-20 Helicopter

Featured Equipment Suggests Dedicated SAR/CSAR Role

Photographs posted on Chinese social media platform Weibo on 22 February show that at least one Z-20 helicopter of the People’s Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) appears to have been modified to conduct SAR/CSAR operations. The aircraft appears to be taking part in an exercise with units of the 161st Air Assault Brigade using standard Z-20 utility variants as well as Z-8L and Z-10A aircraft.

The new variant features an under-fuselage searchlight and carries what seems to be a crash position indicator (CPI) underneath the tail boom, similar in appearance to that carried by modified Z-9D PLA Naval Aviation helicopters. It also sports a different satellite communications dome on the tail boom behind the engine exhausts, and rescue hoist on the right side – further indications of its potential dedicated SAR/CSAR role.

Emergence of the photographs comes after Chinese state-owned media confirmed that China’s paramilitary People’s Armed Police (PAP) has also received its first Z-20 series helicopters. Reportedly designated Z-20WJ, this variant is believed to have entered service with the PAP’s 2nd Mobile Corps Helicopter Detachment in Sichuan Province.

State-owned Global Times cited analysts as saying that the Z-20, which has joined the larger Z-8G transport helicopter, will enhance “the mobility and flexibility of the armed police in tasks including anti-terrorist, disaster relief and emergency rescue missions”.

Andreas Rupprecht and Gabriel Dominguez for MON



Standard Z-20s in flight. Recent images suggest a new variant may be dedicated to SAR/CSAR operations. (CCTV)

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