CHINA / MILITARY
PLA’s latest Z-8L transport choppers hold drills, display aerial assault capabilities
Published: Nov 22, 2021 09:38 PM
A Z-8L helicopter of the Chinese People's Liberation Army prepares to transport an all-terrain assault vehicle. Photo: Screenshot from China Central Television

A Z-8L helicopter of the Chinese People's Liberation Army prepares to transport an all-terrain assault vehicle. Photo: Screenshot from China Central Television



A large number of Z-8Ls, the latest type of large transport helicopter in service with the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), recently conducted drills together with Z-20 utility helicopters, displaying the combination's strong aerial assault capabilities, analysts said on Monday.

Having just commissioned the new transport helicopter, an aerial assault brigade affiliated with the PLA 83rd Group Army recently organized a multidimensional aerial assault exercise. This involved a large number of troops transported by these Z-8Ls helicopters, who rapidly arrived at designated exercise zones, eastday.com, a Shanghai-based news website, reported on Sunday, quoting a recent report by China Central Television (CCTV).

During the drills, a group of Z-10 and Z-19 attack helicopters first launched fire strikes on the target zones. Then, Z-20 utility helicopters carrying soldiers penetrated deep into the battlefield, after which the troops landed on the ground. Carrying heavy equipment, the Z-8Ls came after the Z-20s to support the infantrymen.

The drills gave a rare glimpse on how the Z-8L can cooperate with the Z-20 and others, eastday.com said. The Z-8L made its public debut at the celebration of the centenary of the Communist Party of China in Beijing on July 1, 2021 and the Z-20 made its first public appearance at the National Day military parade in Beijing on October 1, 2019.

This tactic could be used in many typical combat scenarios, a Beijing-based military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Monday.

Attack helicopters like the Z-10 will clear the way and escort transport helicopters, the Z-20 will carry troops with light arms, and the Z-8L will carry troops with heavy equipment and vehicles, the expert said, noting that this combination can provide strong aerial assault capabilities to the PLA Army.

Compared with other transport helicopters, the new Z-8L can carry more and better adapt to modern combat patterns, Ma Kai, a pilot at the brigade, was quoted by CCTV as saying.

The Z-8L is the latest, upgraded version in the Z-8 family. Compared with its predecessors, the Z-8L has a wider body. Its fuel tanks have been moved from below the cargo hold to the side wings, and it is equipped with new types of electro-optical pods, radar warning receivers and infrared decoys, eastday.com reported.

The 15 ton-class Z-8L can also carry some heavy equipment inside the cabin that the original Z-8 could not, like the Lynx all-terrain vehicle, eastday.com said, noting that in the future, the Z-8L will become a main combat force in the PLA's aerial assault operations thanks to its ability to carry vehicles and artillery together with troops.

In late October, the defense authorities on the island of Taiwan for the first time reported that the PLA sent attack and transport helicopters near Taiwan in a drill. A similar drill was reported on Friday, in which a Z-10 attack helicopter accompanied a Mi-17 transport helicopter in a flight to the island's self-proclaimed southwest air defense identification zone.

Experts said that it is worth waiting to see whether the PLA Army Aviation Force will frequently join the exercises and patrols in the region.
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