April 20, 2012: China has apparently decided to adopt two helicopter gunship designs and push the "back-up design" (Z-19) into production ahead of the favorite (Z-10).
For two years now the Z-19 armed scout helicopter has been spotted in the air, most recently painted in military colors. The Z-19 was earlier known as the Z-9W. The Z-19 is yet another Chinese helicopter based on the Eurocopter Dauphin (which has been built under license in China for two decades). The Z-19 is a 4.5 ton, two seat armed helicopter. It can carry a 23mm autocannon and up to a ton of munitions (missiles, usually). Cruising speed is 245 kilometers an hour and range is 700 kilometers. The Z-19 is basically an upgraded Z-9W.
China is also developing a larger (7 ton) and more complex Z-10 helicopter gunship. This project has been going on for 14 years and several prototypes have been built. Attempts to buy or steal helicopter gunship technology from Russia and South Africa failed. Two years ago some of the prototypes were sent to Chinese Army aviation units for field testing. While not a failure, the Z-19 was apparently seen as a better candidate for mass production. This does not mean the Z-10 will be abandoned, because the Z-19 is basically an armed scout helicopter. China still wants something more like the American AH-64 Apache. That would be the Z-10, at least once all the development problems are overcome.