July 20, 2012: China's Z-9WE helicopter gunship has finally gotten some combat experience. Kenya has been using its four Z-9WEs in southern Somalia for over six months. Kenya received the first two of these helicopters in 2010, and the second pair last year. The Z-9WEs have proved very useful in Somalia against the al Shabaab Islamic terrorists. That's probably why no one has mentioned that the Z-9WEs are a violation of the Western arms embargo against China (because of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre).
The embargo against China is unpopular. European firms are particularly eager to drop the embargo and some, like France, are ignoring it. This is done by disregarding the installation of dual-use Western equipment in weapons systems. One example is the use of French Arriel 2C engines (built under license in China) for the Z-9WE combat helicopter.
The Arriel 2C engine is only supposed to be used for Chinese civilian helicopters and has been used for over 300 of them. Earlier models of the Z-9 used Chinese designed and built WZ8A engines. These were not satisfactory. So now China is advertising the use of Arriel 2C engines in its Z-9WE combat helicopters.
This use of Western engines in military helicopters is not new. Five years ago China installed Canadian PT6C-67C engines in its Z-10 helicopter gunship. China shrugs off foreign protests at this and, partly because of this, European military equipment manufacturers are pushing for a lifting of the embargo.
The Z-9 is a license built version of the French AS 365N Dauphin. It's a four ton chopper with a two ton payload. China has built over 200 of the Z-9s and many have been armed (with twin 23mm cannon, torpedoes, anti-tank missiles, and air-to-air missiles). The Z-9WE is the export version which is modified to more easily accept Western electronics and weapons. China has exported the Z-9WE to at least four other African nations.