China’s Black Hawk helicopter clone makes first flight

On Dec. 23, at 14.11 Local Time, Chinese medium lift utility helicopter dubbed Z-20 made its first flight.

As the image (published on a Chinese Internet website and then made available by Alert5) shows, the chopper is clearly based on the U.S. Black Hawk type (China operates 24 Black Hawk procured in 1983 as S-70C-2).

Still, it features some peculiar things: the 5-blade rotor, a larger cabin and a different landing gear and tail.

Z-20 is believed to be a 10-ton chopper that will be used to replace Mi-17 and Mi-171 helos within People’s Liberation Army.

Image via Alert5



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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. In the late 40s almost all the soviet designs were based American and German designs and this was a practical shortcut to start a very impressive aviation industry that later produced very original designs.

    Here I see a very similar thing.

    • Don’t think so. Remember all the soviet warbirds from WW II? They had a lot of home grown designs already. They used some designs from German or American origin, but not the majority.

      In contrast the Chinese seem to copy everything and don’t have any original designs or concepts whatsoever. It is just disgusting!

      • I agree but seriously if something works and China doest give a crap about US patent and copyright laws so why waste the resources to design something completely original?

      • Weren’t the Soviets a little late to the party regarding helicopter design?

        Anyway, it seems that the Chinese are at least trying these days, with the J-20.

  2. The J20 is quiet an original design so I do not think it applies to everything they do. It applies to the majority…

        • That is some old photo of an old wind tunnel model. The concept (J-9) was scraped for the J-8, it newer saw the light of day. So?

          • Actually CAC continued investing on canard-delta design after the J-9 project was cancelled while SAC got the J-8 contract. By then CAC have collected huge volumes of data from the wind tunnel tests and later used them for J-10. The only problem was that the canards in J-9 are stationary due to the absence of a fly-by-wire system. Later Israel kicked in and sold them a full set of FBW source code they used on their Lavi fighter. That brought up another problem, they had to modify the source code to suit their design because Lavi was having a different shape of main wings and the distance from the main wings to the canards is also different and hence the control laws are absolutely different. Understandably, during the modification, they go some difficulties and luckily (again!) Frenches, who were doing their Rafael at almost the same time, offered the very needed help.

  3. But whats the point of copying outdated helicopter design? Blackhawk already doesn’t offer enough space for an infantry squad.

    • The Z-20 does offer that space.

      It seems to have a modified and enlarged cabin, as well as five-bladed rotors for more lift.
      But most of all, the Blackhawk/Z-20 will fit inside China’s surface combattants as well as their Y-9 Transport Planes, while the Mi-171 also in PLA serive does not.

    • Blackhawk is the only design of 10 tonne class which can be fitted into a Y-8 transporter (or C-130 likewise) and fly above the Tibet plateau. They got long term experience from their still actively flying S-70C fleet and they just love it.

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