CHINA / MILITARY
PLA Army helicopters switch role from support to main force in cross-sea operations
Published: Dec 23, 2020 09:47 PM

Multi-type attack and transport helicopters attached to an army aviation brigade under the PLA 72nd Group Army hover over city and mountains during a tactical flight training exercise on December 16, 2020. (eng.chinamil.com.cn/Photo by Sun Mingjian)


 
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Army helicopters are reportedly switching from their original supporting role to a main force in cross-sea operations, as helicopters are expected to play vital roles in amphibious landing operations in regions like the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, analysts said on Wednesday.

Based in Southeast China’s coastal regions, an army aviation brigade attached to the PLA 73rd Group Army recently conducted a cross-sea assault exercise in a sea region south of East China's Fujian Province with multiple types of helicopters, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Tuesday.

Z-10 attack helicopters and Mi-171 transport helicopters skimmed over the sea in formations to break up defense positions, as they fast-maneuvered to an unknown island on the high seas, according to the report.

During the exercise, the army aviation brigade acted as a main combat force rather than support force as it has in the past, under the assistance of combined arms, special operations, radar and drone forces, CCTV said.

To overcome a shortcoming of helicopters – the limited operational range in cross-sea operations, the brigade worked together with a PLA Navy unit and explored methods of having Navy ships carrying helicopters out to sea, the report said.

During landing missions, the brigade invented a way to have eight soldiers rappelling down from a Mi-171 helicopter at the same time using eight ropes, eliminating the past weakness of having only one or two ropes, which took too much time and made the helicopter a vulnerable target, CCTV reported.

With the PLA Navy about to receive Type 075 amphibious assault ships, a type of ship also known as a helicopter carrier, helicopters will become more important in amphibious landing operations, a military expert told the Global Times on the condition of anonymity.

Army aviation forces could integrate with the Type 075s and maximize their combat potential, the expert said.

Amphibious assault ships mainly conduct vertical deployment and landing missions on islands and reefs like the island of Taiwan and those in the South China Sea, analysts said.
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