The attack helicopter has become a staple in many modern military forces. One country, though, has lagged a little bit with this crucial weapon: The People's Republic of China. In fact, they were way behind the curve.
They really can only blame themselves: The June 1989 massacre of peaceful protestors at Tiananmen Square put the kibosh on acquiring a Western design, like the Augusta A129 or the Bell AH-1 Cobra. The fall of the Berlin Wall meant China lost out on buying the Mi-24 Hind. Communist China had to make do with arming the Harbin Z-9, a copy of the AS.365 Dauphin.
Two Harbin Z-9Ws. The Chinese Communists used this as the basis for the Z-19. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Tksteven)
Now, however, China is catching up. The People's Liberation Army took two approaches: One was to have the Russian helicopter company Kamov design a purpose-built anti-tank helicopter. The other was an effort to create a dedicated attack version of the Z-9, much like how the AH-1 Cobra was based off the famous UH-1 Iroquois utility helicopter.
Both of the projects are now reaching fruition, and it looks like the Chinese are going to use the products of each. The Z-10 is seen as the main attack helicopter, like the AH-64 Apache is for the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, and a number of other countries.
The Harbin Z-19, an armed reconnaissance helicopter. (Wikimedia Commons photo by WU Ying)
The Z-19 is seen as more of an observation bird — albeit one with far more firepower than the retired OH-58 Kiowa. MilitaryFactory.com reports that it has a top speed of 152 miles per hour, a maximum range of 435 miles, is armed with up to eight anti-tank missiles, and has a crew of two. So far, only the Chinese Communists are using this helicopter — Pakistan, which is often a consumer of Chinese weapons, chose the Turkish copy of the A129 to fill its attack-helicopter needs.
Learn more about this helicopter in the video below: