The development of the WZ-10 was the result of failed foreign ventures in the late 1900's to purchase helicopters dedicated to meet the "attack" role. China realized that they needed a solution to counter large armoured formations and their fleet of civilian helicopters converted to military roles were simply inadequate. At that time, China did not have a strong aviation industry and so sought after foreign produced aircraft, evaluating several candidates such as the Italian Agusta A129 Mangusta and the US AH-1 Cobras. A contract was secured for the latter but this was subsequently cancelled due to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and the ensuing arms embargo. Further offers to the Russians and Bulgarians for the Mil Mi-28 were rejected.
What was left over were the indigenous programs: the Armed Helicopter Development Team (武装直升机开发工作小组) and the China Medium Helicopter (CHM) program. The Gulf War ushered in a new urgency for a dedicated air-to-ground attack helicopter and in 2000, China abandoned all ventures on foreign purchase with another failed deal with the Russians. The WZ-10 program accelerated and in April 2003, a prototype made its maiden flight at Lumeng airfield. In the coming years, numerous prototypes were built and by January 2006 after three rigorous testing phases, weaponry and sensory tests that included live ammunition were taking place.
The WZ-10 incorporates top end technology in its avionics. The helicopter uses a holographic HUD and the first indigenous helicopter to use HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick). Also, unlike previous home brewed helicopters, the WZ-10 navigation systems are fully integrated and many instruments are designed to be easily replaced by upcoming technology that is still in development.
The electronic warfare system of the WZ-10 is the first Chinese system that integrates all the key components: radar, radar warning receivers, laser warning receivers, electronic support measures, and electronic counter-measures. The aircraft also has an advanced electro-optics system comprising a colour daytime TV camera, night vision camera, imaging infrared camera, and a laser targeting system. The entire system is integrated with the HMS (Helmet Mounted Sight) system.
The WZ-10 is currently powered by foreign engines as it was clear Chinese manufacturers will not be able to deliver a suitable powerplant for the helicopter. However, the future long term engines will all be indigenously built.
The WZ-10 has a modular design concept and can be armed with a variety of weaponry, of Soviet and Western origin. The helicopter's armament consists of a chin-mounted heavy autocannon (30 mm calibre) and 4 hardpoints on the stub wings. Each hardpoint can hold up to 4 missiles. Smaller calibre machine guns and automated grenade launchers can also be mounted in the turret form in lieu of the autocannon.
In June of this year, the United States charged United Technologies and two of its subsidiaries for selling the necessary engines codes to operate the WZ-10. The Chinese government denied buying the software but United Technologies agreed to settle the charges for more than $75 million (Yahoo News).
- Crew: 2
- Length: 14.15 m (ft)
- Rotor diameter: 13.0 m (ft)
- Height: 3.85 m (ft)
- Empty weight: 5,540 kg (lb)
- Loaded weight: 7,000 kg (lb)
- Useful load: 1,500 kg (lb)
- Max. takeoff weight: 7,000+ kg (lb)
- Powerplant: 2 × WZ-9 turboshaft, 1000 kw (1340 shp) each
- Maximum speed: 300 km/h
- Cruise speed: 270 km/h
- Ferry range: 800 km
- Service ceiling: 6,400 m (ft)
- Rate of climb: over 12 m/s (ft/min)