SA 321Ja Super Frelon Naval Helicopter
China acquired 13 examples of the Aérospatiale Super Frelon SA 321 Super Frelon naval helicopter from France in 1977~78. These helicopter came in two variants: anti-submarine warfare (ASW) variant and search and rescue (SAR) variant. The Super Frelon was the first helicopter of the PLA to be capable of operating from the flying deck of surface vessels. On 3 January 1980, a Super Frelon flown by a PLA Naval Aviation crew made a successful landing on the flying deck of a navy replenishment ship, marking the first shipborne operation in the PLA Navy’s history. Few months later, four Super Frelons joined the PLA Navy task force to the South Pacific to recover the re-entry capsule of China’s first full-range DF-5 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test.
Since the early 1980s, the Super Frelons have been frequently used by the PLAN for shipborne ASW and SAR operations. They were also used to ferry supplies from replenishment ship to surface combatants, and transport marine troops from the landing ship to the shore. As the Super Frelon was too large to be operated from destroyers or frigates, it could only be carried by large replenishment ship or scientific research ships on the flying deck. China also produced the Super Frelon locally under the designation Z-8 by reverse-engineering. The Super Frelon remains operational with the PLA Navy today, thirty years after they joined the service.
The SA 321 Super Frelon uses a six-bladed main rotor mounted above centre of the fuselage. Of the three turboshaft engines, two are mounted side-by-side atop the fuselage forward of main rotor, with the third behind the main rotor. Round air intakes are located above and behind cockpit. Boat-hull type fuselage mounts stabilising floats on either side of the body, which has fixed landing gear and an upswept rear section. The nose is round with glassed-in cockpit. The tail boom tapers from the main body to the swept-back, tapered fin with a rotor on the left. The single flat is tapered and flat-mounted on the right side of the fin.
The ASW variant Super Frelon has two radomes mounted on the stabilising float on each side of the fuselage, housing a surface search radar. The SAR variant does not have the float-mounted radomes, but has a single radome mounted on its glass-in nose, possibly housing a weather radar. Both variants are fitted with a hoist with winch and scoop externally above the starboard side cabin door for rescue missions.
For ASW missions, the SA 321 Super Frelon can carry a Thomson Sintra HS-12 dipping sonar. The helicopter can also tow a mine-sweeping countermeasures system for mine-sweeping missions at 46km/h speed for up to two hours, or carry eight 250kg mines for mine-laying missions, but these equipments were not seen on the Super Frelons equipped by the PLA Navy.
For transport missions, the SA 321 can carry 27 armed soldiers (maximum 39), or 15 patient litters and a medical staff, or 5,000kg cargo externally on sling.
The SA 321 Super Frelon can carry two Chinese indigenous ET52 (A244/S Whitehead) ASW torpedoes under the fuselage pylons.
The SA 321Ja Super Frelon helicopter is powered by three Turboméca 3C III turboshafts, each rated at 1,610hp.
Flight crew: 2
Main rotor diameter: 18.9m
Weight (empty): 6.86t
Weight (maximum take off): 13t
Engine: 3 x Turbomeca Turmo IIIC7 turboshafts, each rated at 1,610hp
Maximum speed: 248km/h
Service ceiling: 3.1km
Endurance: 4 hours
Maximum payload: 5t
Typical load: 27 troops or 15 stretchers
Armament: 2 x anti-submarine torpedo
Last update: 2 January 2009