Murphy's Law: Russian Mercenaries In China


March 19, 2013: Sergei Mikheyev, a senior designer for the Russian Kamov Helicopter Design Bureau, confirmed that he and other Kamov personnel had designed the Chinese Z-10 helicopter gunship. This was done under contract for the Chinese government in the 1990s. The Kamov connection has been rumored for the last six years, after other Russians involved in the Z-10 design project spoke off-the-record.

Mikheyev confirmed all this during a recent talk in the United States (at the Heli-Expo in Las Vegas). Mikheyev described how the Chinese wanted a basic design concept and that Chinese engineers would do all the further development, which is what the Chinese did. This may have accounted for the Z-10 requiring such a long development period. This project was, in effect, a training exercise for the Chinese. Back in the 1990s the Russian defense industries were in such bad shape (because the Russian defense budget had shrunk about 90 percent) that firms were allowed to sell expertise and technology to foreign countries in order to survive. After 2000, this became less common and is now quite rare. But back then, just about everything was for sale.

It was only last year that the Z-10 entered mass production. In the last year the Z-10 has been photographed serving with four of the five aviation brigades in the army. There is a squadron (12 helicopters) of Z-10s in each of these brigades. The move to mass production of the Z-10 was a surprise because this aircraft has been in development for over 14 years and the several prototypes encountered numerous problems. This led to failed attempts to buy or steal helicopter gunship technology from the West, Russia, and South Africa.

Two years ago some of the Z-10 prototypes were sent to the Chinese Army aviation units for field testing. While not a failure, the newer and lighter Z-19 was apparently seen as a better candidate for mass production. Work continued on the Z-10 because the Z-19 is basically an armed scout helicopter. China always wanted something more like the American AH-64 Apache. That would be the Z-10, at least once all the development problems were overcome. The seven ton Z-10 is smaller than the 10 ton AH-64 and also has a crew of two. The Z-10 is armed with 30mm autocannon and can carry up to a ton of rockets or missiles.

For three years now the Z-19 armed scout helicopter has been spotted in the air, most recently painted in military colors. The Z-19 was earlier known as the Z-9W. The Z-19 is yet another Chinese helicopter based on the Eurocopter Dauphin (which has been built under license in China for two decades). The Z-19 is a 4.5 ton, two seat armed helicopter. It can carry a 23mm autocannon and up to half a ton of munitions (missiles, usually). Cruising speed is 245 kilometers an hour and range is 700 kilometers. The Z-19 is basically an upgraded Z-9W.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close