The People's Liberation Army (PLA) recently held a nighttime exercise with Z-20s, China's latest military utility helicopter, with analysts saying on Thursday that the Z-20 has displayed initial all-weather combat capability, and related tactics and techniques would come in handy in surprise attacks.
Several Z-20s attached to an aerial assault brigade affiliated with the PLA Central Theater Command Army recently conducted a nighttime flying exercise, as they took off and formed formations, China Central Television (CCTV) reported this week.
It is rare that a nighttime drill by Z-20s is open to media reports, CCTV said, explaining that since visibility is low at night, the pilots would face more challenges when judging distance and altitude.
Helicopters are required to fly at low altitudes to better avoid detection by hostile radar and gain maximum combat advantage, which further adds to the risk of accidents particularly at night, analysts said. The other side of the coin is that low-visibility, low-altitude approaches by helicopters at night are difficult to handle also for the enemy, and in future combat operations, aerial assault units would need to launch surprise attacks at night.
The training exercise put the pilots' combat capabilities to a test, the report said, noting that under the accurate control of pilots, the Z-20's movements seemed to have no difference than in daytime, CCTV said.
The exercise showed that the Z-20 is forming all-weather combat capability, after its only-recent commissioning into the PLA, a Chinese military expert told the Global Times on Thursday, requesting anonymity.
It also indicated that the Z-20 is equipped with advanced sensors and other avionics systems to assist its pilot in making the right judgment at night, the expert said.
The Z-20 made its public debut at the National Day military parade in 2019 in Beijing.
Z-10 attack helicopters also joined the nighttime exercise, video shows.
The Z-10 and the Z-20 can form a good combination in aerial assault missions, with the Z-10 being responsible for dealing with threatening targets and the Z-20 for transporting soldiers to where they are needed, the expert said.
"As a new combat force, we need to play important roles in key operations," Tang Jun, deputy chief of staff at a brigade with the PLA 83rd Group Army, said in the CCTV report.
"We will use our multidimensional attack, defense and hit-and-run tactics, and integrate aerial and ground forces," Tang said, noting that recent exercises have yielded significant results and effectively boosted the troops' combat capabilities.