The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has unveiled its latest type of transport helicopter, the Z-8L, the first in the 15-ton-class in China. In its first official public appearance, a Z-8L helicopter affiliated with a Jiangxi-based PLA test flight unit recently went through a series of tests on carrying and lifting a Bobcat all-terrain assault vehicle to examine the stability and safety of the transport procedure. The new helicopter is capable of transporting an all-terrain assault vehicle and other heavy equipment. It is expected to enter service with aerial assault troops and to play a major role in multiple scenarios including amphibious assault missions.
The Z-8L will be commissioned into the PLA’s aerial assault forces to enhance the troops’ comprehensive transport and overall combat capability. At 15 tonnes, it is two tonnes heavier than the basic version, and is optimized to operate from China’s new Type 075 amphibious ships. Equipped with a new type of photoelectric device and self-defense systems including radar warning receiver and infrared decoys, the Z-8L has higher survivability.
In addition to operating in a wide range of terrains including plains, valleys and plateaus, the Z-8L can also join cross-sea amphibious assault missions when paired up with amphibious landing and assault ships.
Domestically developed and based on the original Changhe Z-8 (Zhishengji-8) and being another Z-8 variant in addition to the Z-8G, the Z-8L has a wider body so it can accommodate a Bobcat all-terrain assault vehicle within its well-protected cabin. The Changhe Z-8 (Zhishengji-8) is a triple engine, multi-role helicopter designed and manufactured by the Changhe Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG) of China. It is derived from SA 321 Super Frelon Helicopter built by Aérospatiale (formerly Sud Aviation). The helicopter entered service in 1989. About 15 to 20 Z-8 helicopters are currently serving the People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF).
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been attaching great importance to helicopters and vertical landing tactics in its amphibious landing missions. It has launched two Type 075 amphibious assault ships, also known as helicopter carriers, since 2019. Multiple Z-8Ls carrying all-terrain assault vehicles means vertical-landing troops will have vehicles to use the moment they have their feet on the ground, which will allow them to win crucial tactical opportunities. The Z-8L will be commissioned into the PLA’s aerial assault forces to enhance the troops’ comprehensive transport and overall combat capability.