Harbin Z-19E makes maiden flight targeting export market

The Z-19E, an export version of the Chinese indigenous Z-19 helicopter gunship, completed its maiden flight in the north-eastern city of Harbin on Thursday 18 May.

The basic variant Z-19, designed and built by AVIC Harbin Aircraft Industrial Group (HAIG), has already been serving with the PLA Army Aviation Corps since 2011. The concept of the E variant for the export market was first unveiled in September 2015.

The Z-19 was developed from the Harbin Z-9/H425 utility helicopter, a licensed copy of the French Eurocopter AS 365 Dauphin. It inherited the engine, transmission and rotor systems of the Z-9/H425, but has a redesigned, armour-protected fuselage with two tandem seats and two stub wings for external ordinance.

As a 4-ton-class light attack helicopter, the Z-19 is not thought to be as capable as the Changhe Z-10, but it offers a low-cost alternative to the latter. The helicopter shares a large amount of components and ground support equipment with the Z-9 series, which is in service with all three branches (ground, air force and navy) of the PLA, as well as a number of foreign militaries. The commonality in logistics would make the Z-19 particularly attractive to the existing Z-9 customers.

The Z-19 is powered by two China National South Aviation Industry Co. (CNSAIC) WZ8C turboshaft engines (rated at 581 kW each), which have been developed from the French Turbomeca Arriel-IC1. The helicopter has an empty weight of 2,350 kg, a take-off weight of 4,250 kg, a maximum cruising speed of 245 km/h, a ferry range of 700 km, and a service ceiling of 2,400 m.

Z-19E 2

The Z-19 carries a range of air-to-ground and air-to-air weapons, including the semi-active laser-homing KD-9 and KD-10 anti-tank guided missile, PL-90 IR-homing air-to-air missile, 12.7-mm machinegun pod, and unguided rocket pods. In addition, the helicopter also features an electronic countermeasures suite consisting of rear warning receivers (RWR) and an electro-optical turret (FLIR, TV and laser rangefinder).

The exact improvement of the Z-19E over the basic variant Z-19 is unclear, but Chinese media citing the helicopter’s designer reported the Z-19E features improved sensors, integrated avionics, and better information systems for situation awareness on the battlefield.

The Z-19E is generally comparable in performance and capability to the later variants of the AH-1 HueyCobra, and is particularly for low-intensity conflicts, counterterrorism, and counter-insurgency operations. The helicopter has already reportedly attracted some interest from potential foreign customers, though has yet received any confirmed order.

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