The latest Z-10 attack helicopter (left) during a recent military drill with PLA's 80th Group Army. The chopper upgrade features exhaust openings facing upward instead of outward unlike the original model (right). (Photo: cctv.com)
The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has unveiled its latest edition of the Z-10 attack helicopter, featuring exhaust openings that face upward instead of outward, with experts claiming the chopper's infrared signal will make it harder to target.
The upgrade also indicates that the domestic-made attack helicopter is equipped with stronger engines, experts also said.
The upgraded Z-10 participated in a military exercise with the PLA's 80th Group Army on February 8, according to official photos uploaded on the military's WeChat account.
The latest Z-10 edition is distinguishable from the photos, which features exhaust openings facing upward instead of outward like the early model, reported Weihutang, a column on military affairs affiliated with China Central Television.
An export version of the Z-10, the Z-10ME, also featured this design, but was not intended for domestic service.
Having heat gas from engines pointed upward instead of outward can lower the helicopter's infrared signal, and weapons like infrared guided missiles will less likely lock on to the helicopter, giving it a better chance of survival on the battlefield, military analysts said.
However, this design will also inevitably increase drag force, raising the power requirement for the helicopter's engines, analysts said, noting the latest Z-10 edition more than likely has greater engine power.
China's most recently developed helicopter, the Z-20, which made its public debut at the National Day parade on October 1, 2019, is equipped with homemade engines that are powerful enough to take the helicopter to plateaus thanks to technological breakthroughs, Chen Guang, vice general manager of AVICOPTER, the helicopter branch of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, told the Global Times in a previous interview in October 2019.
"The Z-20 will contribute to China's future helicopter development as new models will learn from its advanced technologies," Chen said.
If installed with more powerful engines, the Z-10 could also carry more protective armor plates, payloads and even install an additional millimeter wave fire control radar on top of its rotor for longer attack range and higher accuracy, analysts said.
A millimeter wave fire control radar was installed on the Z-19 light attack helicopter, which was displayed at the Fifth China Helicopter Exposition in Tianjin last October.