China Debuts New Indigenous Attack Helicopter for Export Market in First Flight

May 22 2017 - 12 Comments
By Tom Demerly

New Z-19E Black Whirlwind Flies for First Time in Harbin, China.

Chinese aircraft company AVIC Harbin Aircraft Industry Group debuted its new Z-19E “Black Whirlwind” attack helicopter during its first flight at Harbin Airport in Harbin, Heilongjiang, northeastern China.

The first flight of the Z-19E Black Whirlwind, also referred to as the AH-19E in Chinese media, was a basic lift-off to hover and then several basic low-speed flight maneuvers over the airfield. The aircraft was carrying eight large, white missiles that bear resemblance to the U.S. designed Hellfire guided missile along with what may have been a gun pod and a launch canister for high-velocity aircraft rockets (HVARs) possibly analogous to the U.S. 2.75” folding fin aircraft rocket (FFAR).

The crew arrangement seems to be similar to that of the U.S. AH-64 Apache helicopters where the pilot sits in the rear and the weapons operator sits in the front of the helicopter.

A noteworthy feature of the Z-19E is the “Fenestron” protected, shaft-driven tail rotor assembly. This is different from many attack helicopters such as the U.S. AH-64 Apache, European Tiger and Russian Mi-28 that use conventional, exposed tail rotors mounted outside the fuselage tail boom. The Fenestron enclosed tail rotor reduces lost thrust by ducting the drive forces generated by the rotating blades, reduces audible signature (quieter) and is safer in ground operations.

Fenestron is also noticeably quieter than a conventional external tail rotor improving audible stealth. The most common Fenestron equipped helicopter in use today is the U.S. Coast Guard’s HH-65C Dolphin. Fenestron is also seen on the Russian Kamov Ka-60- and the Kawasaki OH-1 light observation/attack helicopter. Fenestron tail rotors are generally more expensive to manufacture and heavier than a conventional external tail rotor however.

This is China’s first attempt at a locally produced, advanced attack helicopter intended for the export market. Their current primary attack helicopter is the CAIC Z-10 or WZ-10, an indigenously produced attack helicopter of primarily Russian design. It is an older looking helicopter with external tail rotor and cockpit arrangement that resembles the European Tiger attack helicopters. It was originally developed under a secret contract with famous Russian helicopter builder Kamov. The program for the Z-10 began in the early 2000s; an unusually late arrival for China to attack helicopter development compared to the U.S. and Russia who have been building dedicated attack helicopters since the 1960’s.

Depending on cost, capabilities and import/export restrictions the new Chinese Z-19E Black Whirlwind could have interested export clients in African and Middle-eastern/Asian countries where there is no locally built, advanced, fully capable attack helicopter.

Top image credit: Reuters



  • callsign2000

    Nice video, although I doubt it was the machine’s maiden flight as labeled. Who test flies a new aircraft with full underwing stores? Real question is when did it really first fly?

  • Alexander Rodriguez

    No cannon mount, fail.

  • Ryan

    Check the Z-9 locally produced (derived from french Dauphin/Dolphin), it is exactly the same machine except the front half

  • Jes Vil

    Ive seen RC Copters that fly smoother.

  • ReadyOrNot

    I wonder which US “ally” they managed to pilfer their electronics/weapons tech from.

  • Ching-Chen Huang

    For export……so who’s buying?

  • Quattro Bajeena

    So this is a downgraded Z-19 light attack helicopter. Like Ryan said the Z-19 is likely a modified Z-9 Dauphin for which the Chinese have a production license. As for the Z-10 it comes from a different manufacturer (CAIC) and while Kamov did provide the chief design expertise AFAIK the Chinese did the engineering of the subcomponents. Supposedly the engines for the Z-10 are based on Western designs. There are claims that those engines use a FADEC which they got from Pratt & Whitney.

  • alexander the new yorker

    Bruce Lee lives on !

  • KillerClownfromOuterspace

    seems unstable.

  • ReadyOrNot

    So which “ally” of ours did China get with to access our Hellfire and electronic tech from?

  • Mongee Phase

    Man, looks ugly. People talk about Russia but China in 20 years is gonna be a problem. You cant bully the Chinese. What I worry about is a China/Russia alliance… What worries me more is new generations thinking war is the new norm… Its not.

  • Pepe Le Cox

    Could be a copy of the hellfire, the missile was shipped to Cuba by mistake a year ago