China’s helicopter carrier expands capability with drone

By Liu Xuanzun Source:Global Times Published: 2020/7/2 20:49:12

A full-scale model for an unknown type of drone helicopter was recently spotted on the flight deck of China's Type 075 amphibious assault ship, which is undergoing outfitting work in Shanghai. Photo: Screenshot from China Central Television

China's Type 075  amphibious assault ships, the largest warships second only to aircraft carriers, are receiving drone helicopters that can significantly expand their combat capability by providing strong situational awareness, reports suggest, after a full-scale model for an unknown type of drone helicopter was recently spotted on a Type 075 in Shanghai.

According to a photo circulating on a social media platform, the drone helicopter model is seen parked on the flight deck of a Type 075 , which is undergoing outfitting work, Weihutang, a program on military affairs affiliated with China Central Television (CCTV), reported on Thursday.

Compared with the model of a Z-8 or Z-18 helicopter right next to the drone helicopter in the photo, it is about half the size, making it approximately 10 meters long and three meters tall, a relatively large drone helicopter.

The exact type of the drone helicopter model remains undetermined, but analysts speculate it could be an AR500C, China's first high-altitude unmanned helicopter that made its maiden flight in May, the Weihutang report said.

Putting models on a warship's flight deck is a usual approach in outfitting and sea trials to test the compatibility between the aircraft and the ship, finding the best way to arrange the layout, a military expert who asked not to be named told the Global Times on Thursday.

The US Navy also has similar drone helicopters, namely the MQ-8 Fire Scout, on its warships. 

Drone helicopters can conduct reconnaissance, aerial fire support and precision targeting support missions. Since drones are much smaller than manned helicopters, a warship can carry more of them, the expert said.

With more helicopter platforms in the sky covering more areas, the warship can gain much better situational awareness with more real-time battlefield intelligence, giving it an edge in making combat decisions, the expert said, noting that when armed with guns or missiles, the drone helicopters can also conduct high-risk strike missions that might be too dangerous for a manned helicopter.

China has already launched two Type 075 amphibious assault ships, one in September 2019 and the other in April 2020. They are undergoing outfitting work at the Shanghai-based Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard.

Also dubbed as helicopter carriers since their main characteristic is the usage of helicopters in amphibious landing missions, they are expected to play a vital role in missions such as safeguarding of territorial integrity and national sovereignty in areas like Taiwan Island and the South China Sea, analysts said.

Posted in: MILITARY

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