November 30, 2012:
China has put two helicopter gunship designs into production. Both the "back-up design" (WZ-19) and the troubled (and delayed) favorite WZ-10 have entered service. The WZ-19 armed scout helicopter has been spotted in the air for two years now, most recently painted in military colors. The WZ-19 was earlier known as the Z-9W. The WZ-19 is yet another Chinese helicopter based on the Eurocopter Dauphin (which has been built under license in China for two decades). The WZ-19 is a 4.5 ton, two seat armed helicopter. It can carry a 23mm autocannon and up to a ton of munitions (missiles, usually). Cruising speed is 245 kilometers an hour and range is 700 kilometers. The WZ-19 is basically an upgraded Z-9W.
China has also been developing (since the 1990s) a larger (7 ton) and more complex WZ-10 helicopter gunship. This project has been going on for 14 years and several prototypes have been built. Attempts to buy or steal helicopter gunship technology from Russia and South Africa failed. Two years ago some of the prototypes were sent to Chinese Army aviation units for field testing. While not a failure, the Z-19 was apparently seen as a more capable combat helicopter. The WZ-10 had a lot of problems and was, at one point, in danger of being abandoned. The Chinese persevered and fixed most of the defects and put WZ-10 into production. Because the Z-19 is basically an armed scout helicopter and China still wants something more like the American AH-64 Apache, the WZ-10 was made to work, after a fashion.