Zhi-11 Utility Helicopter
The Chinese helicopter industry faced a major crisis in the early 1980s, when a number of development and co-production projects were abandoned due to financial reasons. Jingdezhen-based China Helicopter Design Institute proposed a lightweight utility helicopter with relatively less complexity and difficulties as the first step to build an indigenous helicopter R&D capability. The proposal was finally approved in 1989, and the development of the helicopter began in 1991 using the designation Zhi-11 (Z-11). China helicopter Design Institute and Changhe Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG), both located in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province, were appointed as main contractors for the project.
The Z-11 was modelled after the successful design of the French AS 350B Squirrel helicopter, which first flew in 1974. However, the Z-11 was not simply a reverse-engineered copy of the AS 350B. According to the Changhe engineers, the Z-11 differs from the AS 350B in nose shape and certain internal structure. The Z-11 prototype made its maiden flight successfully in December 1994, and the initial small batch production began in 1997. The test flight of the helicopter for design finalisation was completed in 2000. The PLA Army Aviation Corps Training Regiment has received a total of 37 Z-11s in the Z-11J (military) model for training role since September 1998.
During the 2002 Zhuhai Air Show, Chenghe revealed that it was developing an armed variant of the Z-11 known as Z-11W for battlefield surveillance and reconnaissance, ground attack, and medical evacuation roles. Comparable to the U.S. OH-58D Kiowa in general performance and missions, the Z-11W employs an optical TV/IR sight mounted on the roof of the cockpit, and has external weapon pylons for four HJ-8 anti-tank missiles or four unguided rocket pods. It also has an improved cockpit featuring a colour LCD multi-functional display. The Z-11W armed helicopter made its first flight on 27 December 2004, but has yet received any order.
The Z-11 is 2,000kg class six-seat lightweight helicopter, powered by a Wozhou-8D (WZ-8D) turboshaft rated at 510kW. The three-blade main rotor is mounted above centre of fuselage. A single turboshaft engine is mounted inside the body with air intakes on top of the cabin and a blackhole exhaust. The fuselage of the helicopter is teardrop-shaped, which features a round, glassed-in cockpit and landing skids. The tail boom tapers from the main body to the swept-back, tapered fin with a rotor on the right. Two flats are mounted on the both side of the boom. The armed variant Z-11W has slightly higher landing skids compared to the basic variant to take off from grass field.
For combat missions, the Z-11W can carry four HJ-8 ATGM, or 4 unguided 57mm rocket launchers, or two 12.7mm machine gun pods under its external fuselage pylons.
By 2005, Chenghe had developed a number of variants based on the Z-11 design, including the military training variant Z-11J , armed variant Z-11W, French Arriel 2B1A engine-powered Z-11MB1, and Z-11ME1.
Last update: 3 June 2007