The People’s Liberation Army has equipped all of its ground force aviation units with advanced WZ-10 combat helicopters, according to PLA media.
Several WZ-10s have been delivered to an aviation brigade of the PLA 13th Group Army under the Western Theater Command, the military’s TV news channel reported.
This means that all of the Army’s aviation units now have this advanced attack helicopter, the report said.
The deliveries also marked the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Army’s aviation force and opened a new chapter in the force’s development, it added.
The Army’s aviation wing was formed in October 1986 with a regiment equipped with a combination of domestically manufactured helicopters with old technologies and a few imported advanced ones.
For more than two decades, the backbone of the PLA’s attack helicopter teams was formed by the WZ-9, which was developed based on the French Eurocopter Dolphin. The Army did not have a dedicated combat helicopter until 2011, when the first WZ-10s were believed to have entered service with the PLA.
Senior Colonel Xu Guolin, deputy chief of the PLA Army’s Aviation Equipment Bureau, told the news channel all of the group armies will have at least one aviation brigade or regiment.
According to a military white paper released in 2013, the PLA Army had 18 group armies at the time, but it is unclear if some of these have been merged or disbanded during troop cuts introduced at the start of this year.
The WZ-10 is developed and produced by Changhe Aircraft Industries Group, a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corp of China, the country’s leading aircraft manufacturer. It made its public debut in November 2012 at the 9th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, also known as the Zhuhai Air Show.
Aviation industry sources said the helicopter was designed primarily for anti-tank missions, but now has a secondary air-to-air combat capability.
Wu Ximing, chief designer of the helicopter at Changhe Aircraft Industries, said the WZ-10 has superior maneuverability and combat compatibility compared with the WZ-9, although it is a little bit weaker in terms of engine capacity, ammunition-carrying ability and firepower.
Wu Peixin, an aviation analyst in Beijing, said the PLA Army now has a strong force of dedicated combat helicopters thanks to the service of the WZ-10 and WZ-19, another attack helicopter that is less powerful than the WZ-10.
“The Army now needs more medium-lift, multipurpose helicopters such as the US Army’s Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk,” he said. “This helicopter is capable of performing both combat operations and transport tasks.”
Gao Zhuo, a military observer in Shanghai, said the PLA Army needs at least 3,000 helicopters, especially heavy-lift transport types and multipurpose models.
Western defense publications speculate that the PLA Army’s aviation force has nearly 1,000 helicopters.