8 Februari 2010
China's Harbin Z-9WE (photo : Militaryphotos)
SINGAPORE and PARIS - China is outfitting a new attack helicopter with a European engine despite export restrictions put in place after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. The move comes as European officials push hard for lifting restrictions on defense exports to China.
China's new Harbin Z9WE attack helicopter is being outfitted with two Arriel 2C turboshaft engines, according to a brochure distributed by China National Aero-Technology Import and Export Corp. (CATIC) at the 2010 Singapore Airshow.
The Safran Group's Turbomeca firm, which developed the engines, granted licenses for production to China several years ago. Chinese factories have produced more than 200 Arriel 2Cs for use on utility and transport helicopters, a Turbomeca spokeswoman said.
Turbomeca's China business goes back decades. One older engine, the Arriel 1, has been built there under license for more than 30 years. In the past nine years, the Arriel 2B1A has been licensed for installation on the Changhe Z11 utility helicopter, and the Arriel 2C licensed for the H410A military helicopter and its VIP-transport variant, H425, according to the company's Web site.
"All our Turbomeca engines assembled in China have the necessary export approvals," the Turbomeca spokeswoman said.
The Z9WE is an updated version of the Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corp.'s Z9G attack helicopter, which flies on a pair of the Chinese-designed WZ8A turboshaft engines.
The new helicopter can carry an assortment of indigenously produced weapons: HJ-8 Red Arrow anti-tank missiles, 57-1 rocket launchers, 23-II cannons and 12.7mm machine guns, "which are enhanced by advanced fire-control system." It also has a sophisticated day/night targeting turret and advanced avionics and mission equipment, the brochure said.
This is not the first time that a Chinese promotional brochure has revealed that a foreign engine is going aboard a military helicopter.
In 2007, a Changhe Aircraft brochure on its then-new Z10 attack helicopters listed the power plant as the PT6C-67C engine manufactured by Pratt & Whitney Canada. The engine had been diverted from a civilian to a military aircraft.
Privately, U.S. officials are concerned that the civil EC175 medium-lift helicopter, which Eurocopter co-developed with China, could be put to military use.
One U.S. official in Paris noted that Eurocopter armed its EC145 to compete in the U.S. Armed Aerial Scout competition, and that China converted the company's Dauphin helicopter for submarine-hunting missions.
Another example is the Eurocopter EC120 Colibri Hummingbird, a single-engine light helicopter funded by China, France and Singapore and developed by a list of companies that includes CATIC, Eurocopter, Harbin and Singapore Technologies Aerospace. China now produces an HC120 variant of the Hummingbird for military training and police surveillance.