Warplanes: The Mysterious Copy Hawk Lands In China

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December 30, 2013: Recently photos from China showed what appeared to be an American UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter landing at a Chinese military base. This mystery helicopter was promptly dubbed “Copy Hawk” for the Chinese eagerness to copy foreign military gear.

While China has never had any Black Hawks, they did manage to buy 24 S-70s, the civilian version of the UH-60, 30 years ago (before the Tiananmen Square massacre and subsequent arms embargo). At least three of these S-70s are known to still be in service the Copy Hawk, on closer examination, was definitely now an S-70. There were several obvious differences (mainly in fuselage shape and rotor configuration). Parts of the Copy Hawk looked like the new Chinese Z-10 helicopter gunship. Nothing is known of what engines and electronics were used in the Copy Hawk and whether it was just an experimental design or a prototype for a new medium helicopter transport based on the S-70.

China could have reverse engineered the S-70 and even used parts taken from the twenty or so S-70s withdrawn from service and used all that to build a real, and probably quite workable, “Z-20” helicopter. Time will tell, especially when additional details get out. China needs a new ten ton class military transport and the Copy Hawk would be consistent with other new Chinese aircraft and ship designs in the last decade. China is now creating new vehicles that take more from the West than long-time source Russia.

In the meantime you will find some Chinese who will complain to you, quite sincerely, that the Americans based their Black Hawk on a Chinese design. That’s because those S-70s have been featured in Chinese media coverage of the armed forces for over two decades. This occurred recently when the military was again called out to help with disaster relief (floods and earthquakes). Those S-70s always show up on the TV news, delivering emergency supplies and evacuating casualties. The crews are Chinese, the paint job and markings are Chinese Air Force and as far as most Chinese are concerned the helicopter is another product of the booming Chinese aviation industry.

The Sikorsky S-70 was a 1970s design that won the competition to replace the older UH-1 "Huey". The army currently has about 2,000 UH-60s and is upgrading the force with the new "M" model. So far, about 2,800 UH-60s have been built. The UH-60 was introduced in 1979. The 11 ton UH-60M can carry 14 troops, or 1.1 tons of cargo internally, or four tons slung underneath. Cruise speed is 278 kilometers an hour. Max endurance is two hours, although most sorties last 90 minutes or less. Max altitude is 5,790 meters (19,000 feet).

 

 


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