Warplanes: March 17, 2005


Chinas track record of technology theft is breathtaking, but frequently these efforts are much less successful than were hoped. One such case was the Chinese copy of the French Super Frelon (SA-321) helicopter. China bought some SA-321s in the early 1970s, and by 1976 were working on reverse engineering them and producing their own, illegal, version. The first flight of the SA-321 clone (called the Z-8) took place in 1985. But only about twenty of the Z-8 have been built since then. Too many technical problems, plus the French were none too happy about this bit of theft, and made their displeasure known to the Chinese. But China has persisted, as the Z-8B is now in production. But only about half a dozen have entered service. A more powerful engine, and hundreds of technical improvements, have still not produced a chopper the Chinese army is willing to pay for. The navy was happy with the original SA-321s, and the Z-8 clones, but these operated at sea level. 


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