Aircraft Wiki

The CAIC Z-10 (Chinese: 直-10, "helicopter-10"), also called WZ-10 (Chinese: 武直-10, "armed helicopter-10"), is a Chinese medium attack helicopter developed for the People's Liberation Army Ground Force. It is designed primarily for anti-tank warfare missions but has secondary air-to-air combat capability as well. Initiated by chief designer Wu Ximing, the project had early Russian involvement with Kamov Design Bureau of Russia under a contract with the Chinese government, but the collaboration was abruptly stopped due to fundamental design philosophy disagreements. The Chinese designers and their customer, the PLA General Armaments Department, preferred a lighter-weight, more agile airframe with less emphasis on armor. The helicopter was further developed by Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation (CAIC) and locally manufactured.

Nicknames of characters in the Chinese classic novel Water Margin have been used to name Z-10 and its light-weight counterpart Harbin Z-19: Z-10 is called Fierce Thunderbolt (Pi Li Huo, 霹雳火), the nickname of Qin Ming, while Z-19 is called Black Whirlwind (Hei Xuan Feng, 黑旋风), the nickname of Li Kui.

In September 2016, the PLA announced that all of its army aviation units had been equipped with the WZ-10.

Early exploration[edit]

In 1979, the Chinese military studied the problem of countering large armour formations. It concluded that the best conventional solution was to use attack helicopters. Eight Aérospatiale Gazelle armed with Euromissile HOT were procured for evaluation.

By the mid-1980s, the Chinese decided a dedicated attack helicopter was required. At the time, they used civilian helicopters converted for the military; these were no longer adequate in the attack role, and suitable only as scouts. Following this, China evaluated the Agusta A129 Mangusta, and in 1988 secured an agreement with the United States to purchase AH-1 Cobras and a license to produce BGM-71 TOW missiles; the latter was cancelled following the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and the resulting arms embargo. The colour revolutions prevented the purchase of attack helicopters from Eastern Europe in 1990 and 1991; Bulgaria and Russia rejected Chinese offers to purchase the Mil Mi-24.

While attempting to import foreign designs failed, war games determined that attack helicopters had to be commanded by the army, rather than the air force. This led to the formation of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force Air Force (PLAGFAF), with an initial strength of 9 Harbin Z-9. The PLAGFAF conducted tactical experiments that would help define the future Z-10's requirements. Research also decided that anti-tank missiles like the BGM-71 TOW were inadequate, and favoured an analogue to the AGM-114 Hellfire. These findings ensured the Z-10 would be based around the new missile.

Medium helicopter program

The Gulf War highlighted the urgent need for attack helicopters, and revalidated the assessment that a purpose-built design was needed. (At the time, the Chinese military depended on armed utility helicopters such as the Changhe Z-11 and Harbin Z-9.) Also, it demonstrated that the new attack helicopter would need to be able to defend itself against other helicopters and aircraft. The military perceived that once the new attack helicopter entered service, the existing helicopters would be used as scouts.

The Armed Helicopter Developmental Work Team (武装直升机开发工作小组) was formed to develop a new medium helicopter design, as opposed to basing the new design on the light helicopters then in service. The 602nd and 608th Research Institutes started development of the 6-ton class China Medium Helicopter (CHM) program in 1994. A secret contract was signed with the Kamov design bureau of Russia to design and verify the helicopter airframe and propulsion.

The program was promoted as a civilian project, and was able to secure significant Western technical assistance, such as from Eurocopter (rotor installation design consultancy), Pratt & Whitney Canada (PT6C turboshaft engine) and Agusta Westland (transmission). The Chinese concentrated on areas where it could not obtain foreign help.

Attack helicopter program

Pratt & Whitney alongside Hamilton Sundstrand divisions of the United Technology Company unlawfully transported and provided US military technology into this program. In effort to maintain profits they conspired to cover up these facts. They were found guilty of these charges in June 2012. Several of the charges were deferred adjudications.

In 1998, the 602nd Research Institute proposed to either separate the armed helicopter program from the medium helicopter program, or devote all resources to the armed helicopter program. The 602nd Research Institute's called its proposed armed helicopter design the WZ-10 (Wu Zhi (武直)-10), with some sources outside of China calling it the Z-X armed helicopter. As a result, most of the resource went to the Z-10, although the medium helicopter program continued with reduced priority; the medium helicopter could continue to develop technology used by both military and civilian aircraft.

The Z-10 program was called the Special Armed Project (专武工程), a short form for Special Use Armed Helicopter Project (专用武装直升机工程). Development was kept under stricter secrecy than the Chengdu J-10 fighter. Nearly ¥ 4 billion was initially invested and the WZ-1- became one of the most important programs begun in the 9th 5-yr plan.

Publicly the 602nd Research Institute was assigned as the chief designer to promote the illusion of it being a domestically developed attack helicopter, while Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation (HAMC) of China Aviation Industry Corporation II (AVIC II) was assigned as the primary manufacturer. Nearly four dozen other establishments participated in the program. In the summer of 1999, AVIC II began to use a CAMC Z-8 to test newly developed Z-10 sub-systems. In autumn of the same year, a Harbin Z-9 was added to the test aircraft inventory. These tests concentrated on sub-systems such as the fire-control systems, HOTAS controls and navigation systems.

South Africa provided limited help in the area of flight stability based on experience from designing the Denel Rooivalk. South African assistance ceased in 2001.

New manufacturer

In 2000, the Chinese again attempted to obtain a Russian attack helicopter, but the deal for the Kamov Ka-50 fell apart just as the Mil Mi-28 deal several years earlier. The repeated failures in obtaining foreign attack helicopters reinforced feelings that China had no choice but to ignore foreign options and develop its own such aircraft and work on the Z-10 accelerated. In the same year, HAMC transferred most of its production responsibilities to CAIC of AVIC II. The official reason given was excessive workload; HAMC was busy producing the HC120 and Harbin Z-9, as well as other fixed-wing aircraft such as the Harbin Y-12, and thus was stretched to the limit. However, many speculated that HAMC was not performing well enough due to rigid and ineffective Soviet-style management practices, believed to have caused the company to go into debt.

Although HAMC was in the process of reform, which finally succeeded, the government and military were weary and impatient. The SH-5 factory had become very profitable after its successful restructuring and reform, but it had to get out of the aircraft manufacturing business for good, manufacturing pressurized tanks and other specialized containers. It was decided that the Z-10 program was too important to be run by HAMC, so a more stable contractor was sought and CAIC was selected. HAMC still retained responsibility for production of certain sub-systems and components, for which it could utilize experience gained from manufacturing parts for foreign helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft such as the Embraer ERJ 145 family.

In May 2002, the Z-10 tail rotor and some other components were tested on the ground by the 602nd Research Institute. In April 2003, a Z-10 prototype completed its maiden flight at Lumeng (吕蒙) airfield, the airfield having been assigned to CAIC for such use. According to Chinese sources, the initial test flights were concluded on December 17, 2003, whereas according to other sources they were completed nine months earlier in March 2003. According to Jane's Information Group, a total of 3 prototypes had completed over 400 hours of test flights by this time. By 2004 3 more prototypes were built, for a total of 6, and a second stage of test flights were concluded on December 15, 2004. In one of the test flights the future commander-in-chief of the People's Liberation Army Ground Force Air Force (PLAGAF), Song Xiangsheng (宋湘生), was on board the prototype. A third stage of intensive test flights followed, taking place during both day and night. By January 2006 weaponry and sensor tests, including firing of live ammunition, were taking place.

Prototypes and a small number of pre-production aircraft are in service with the Chinese military for evaluation. The design is undergoing continuous minor modification and upgrade based on the feedback.

Amphibious role

In March 2014, the PLA released pictures of a Z-10 helicopter conducting deck trials with a People's Liberation Army Navy Type 072A-class landing ship. The purpose may be to qualify the helicopter on ships to provide air support for landing parties launched from the ship. Type 072A-class ships have a helipad but no hangar or support facilities for the aircraft on board. The Z-10 may also be qualified on the larger Type 071 amphibious transport dock.


The Kamov design bureau was contracted to perform the development work under a secret contract. Kamov worked with the Chinese to establish base specifications, such as weight, speed and payload capacity after which they had full freedom to design the helicopter. Kamov designed, tested and verified the helicopter design, after which it was provided to the Chinese team. Although designed in Russia, the prototype construction, flight testing and further development was performed by the Chinese.

Wu Ximing (吴希明) of the 602nd Research Institute, one of the Chinese top scientists involved in the 863 Program was publicly credited with being the chief designer of the Z-10, in an attempt to preserve the secrecy of the Kamov contract. Wu had earlier participated in the designs of the armed version of transport helicopters Z-8A and WZ-9. In order to complete the necessary development, the 602nd Research Institute and CAIC had jointly built a new engineering design center, industrial simulator, aircraft engine ground test center, fatigue laboratory, and rotary test platform (nicknamed as Iron Bird Platform, 铁鸟台). In the end of 2001, the final test was completed on the full-scale rotary test platform, paving the way for test flights.

Composite material is widely used in the Z-10 but China faced difficulties in this field, particularly in the area of survivability during crashes. Huge efforts were spent to domestically develop composite materials able to provide comparable levels of survivability to Western counterparts. This achievement earned a second place in the Commission for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND) progress reward.

Avionics (aircraft related)[edit]

The main contractor of the avionics of Z-10 is the 613th Research Institute, which was responsible for integrating all of the avionics subsystems provided by subcontractors. Although foreign technologies are utilized (particularly French and Israeli, as rumored), this is limited to hardware only. All software applicable to Z-10 are completely indigenously developed by China on its own. Reportedly, the most time-consuming part of the software engineering for Z-10 was to develop all of the mathematic models needed for Z-10. Instead of using French standard DIGIBUS, Z-10 is built to Chinese GJV289A standard, the Chinese equivalent of MIL-STD-1553B. The adaptation of western military standard means that western weaponry can be readily deployed on Z-10, and the developer claims that all it needed was to add a module or interface to accomplish this. The ease of being compatible with multiple weaponry would also help to expand the export market of Z-10 in the future.

Flight instrumentation[edit]

There are two configurations of the flight instrumentation for Z-10, one developed from similar foreign system (rumored to be French), and the other one is indigenously developed, and both configurations share the same holographic head-up display. The difference in layout between the two configurations is that in one configuration, there are three color LCD multi-function displays (MFD), while in the other, these are replaced by two larger LCD MFDs. It's not clear which one is originated from foreign system and which is indigenously developed, but it's reported that the practice of having different configurations thanks to the modular design is for export purposes, to fit the potential customer countries’ pilots’ habits. However, in early 2018, it is revealed that the 2-piece MFD version is the one selected to enter service.

Z-10 is also the very first Chinese helicopter that adopts HOTAS, but a traditional conventional control system had been developed in parallel as a backup, just as the case of cockpit MFDs, and for exactly the same reason why two configurations of flight instrumentation were developed in parallel. The erroneous claim of installing Russian K-36/37 ejection seat in the cockpit of Z-10 proved to be false, and the survival of pilots in emergency landings depends on the crash worthiness of the helicopter. To counterbalance the weight of the armor protecting the pilots, flight instrumentation panel is the place where composite material is mostly used, as in the case of the dashboard of automobiles, where plastic material concentrates. One of the greatest challenges was to find the right composite material that is fit to use, while at the same time, also meets the safety standard so that during a fire, the pilots would not be knocked out by the toxic fume released by the burning composite material.


Unlike previous Chinese helicopters, in which the different navigational systems on board were used independently, the navigational systems of Z-10 are fully integrated, and these include a Ring laser gyroscope, which will be replaced in the future by a Fibre optic gyroscope currently under development, once it becomes available. A radar altimeter currently installed on Z-10 is fully interchangeable with the laser altimeter. Early units of Z-10 have a pulse Doppler navigational radar which only had weather and navigational capabilities, and a more advanced (and thus more costly) model has been developed, incorporating ground mapping, terrain-avoidance, and terrain-following radar capabilities.

The on-board inertial navigation system (INS) is fully integrated with the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, and provisions are made for future upgrades to include Galileo (satellite navigation)/GPS/GLONASS when expanded capabilities of these systems become available. For potential export customers, it can select the satellite navigation systems of its choice, though GPS is usually the norm. In addition, despite the developer's claim that the navigational system of Z-10 can utilize a variety of satellite navigation to improve its accuracy, the integrated GPS corrected INS is the only system that has been shown to the public at Zhuhai Airshows and other defense exhibitions. A modified Blue Sky navigation pod can also be carried by Z-10. Information is shared via a secured data-link that provides real time and near-real time information.

Electronic warfare[edit]

The electronic warfare (EW) system of Z-10 is the first Chinese EW system that integrates the radar, radar warning receivers (RWR), laser warning receivers (LWR), electronic support measures (ESM) and electronic counter-measures (ECM) together. The system is designated YH-96 (YH = Yu Huo, 浴火), named after the YH radar. YH-96 is claimed to have a high interception rate of hostile signals, and in the fully automatic mode, it can automatically analyze the threat and launch different decoys and jamming signals accordingly. Alternatively, pilots can choose to launch decoys or jamming enemy sensors themselves. The helicopter also has an infrared jammer.

Like the modified Blue Sky navigation pod, a modified BM/KG300G self-protection jamming pod can also be carried, usually on one of the hard points of the stub wings. Similarly, a modified KZ900 reconnaissance pod can be carried for reconnaissance missions, although all of these additions come at the cost of reducing the number of hardpoints available for carrying weaponry. Usually, only one such pod is carried at any one time. The identification friend or foe (IFF) system of Z-10 is specially designed to work in an environment of heavy enemy jamming. All internally mounted jamming and decoy launching systems are built with the concept of modular design, so that they can be readily replaced when newer technologies become available.


One of the two primary fire control systems (FCS) is the electro-optical (optronics) system, which utilizes experience gained from earlier manufacturing of similar French and Israeli systems, combining the best of two, but only hardware wise. The software is completely indigenously developed by China. The optronics FCS is manufactured by the 218th Factory of China North Industries Group Corp, later reformed as China North Industries Group Corporation Electro-Opticals Science & Technology Ltd. (中兵光电科技股份有限公司.) The chief designer was Dr. Li Baoping (李保平), deputy bureau chief of the Electro-Optical Bureau of the China North Industries Group Corp and the project manager of the Z-10's optronics FCS, known as the Airborne Stabilized Aiming System (机载稳瞄系统). The same firm also developed the primary weapon of Z-10, the HJ-10 anti-tank missile.[citation needed]

There are a total of four known types of optronics FCS that have been publicized, and all of them share similar components for most parts. The common components of all three types include color daytime TV camera, night vision camera, imaging infrared camera.[citation needed] The earliest sample is the cheapest, with a laser range finder for HJ-8 and similar wire-guided missiles. A more advanced version appeared shortly after, with a laser range finding and targeting system for laser beam riding missiles such as HJ-9. The latest version currently in service has a laser ranger / designator for semi-active laser guided missiles such as HJ-9A and HJ-10. The most recent system that is currently under development incorporates a laser ranging / targeting system that can perform all of the functions previously handled by separate system, and this latest developmental type is also the most expensive and bulkiest one of all.[citation needed] During the 10th 5-yr plan, the 602nd Research Institute was tasked to develop a mast-mounting system for the optronics FCS, which was successfully completed in 2003 (test flew on Harbin Z-9). The optronics FCS is fully compatible and can be slaved to the pilots’ HMS/HMD, and the seekers of the missiles can also be slaved to the FCS.[citation needed]

Helmet mounted targeting and night vision[edit]

In addition to the millimeter wave fire control radar and optronic FCS, the pilot of Z-10 has another FCS, the helmet mounted sight (HMS) designed by the 613th Research Institute. The HMS is standard for Z-10. The HMS is based on the earlier HMS used on WZ-9, which was first shown at the 5th Zhuhai Airshow held in 2004. At the 7th Zhuhai Airshow held in 2008, the developer confirmed that the HMS is fully integrated into the FCS and the onboard navigational systems. Navigational information can be displayed on the MFD, pilots can also fly Z-10 in a 'hands-on' manner, including at night using HMS-compatible night vision goggles (NVG) similar to the French TopOwl HMS used on Eurocopter Tiger. The Chinese HMS can control both the air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, other unguided weapons, as well as providing navigational info.

Additionally, helmet mounted displays (HMDs) were developed for Z-10, similar to the Honeywell M142 Integrated Helmet and Display Sighting System (IHADSS) used on AH-64 Apache. The developer confirmed that HMD is not standard as it is incompatible with the NVGs, the two cannot be simultaneously equipped. It is unclear whether NVG is standard; however the developer has claimed that the helmet and HMS are fully compatible with NVGs.[citation needed] Images released by official government sources have shown that the Z-10 uses binocular-form NVGs (as well as other helicopters in Chinese service). As with the case of optronic FCS, reportedly, NVGs of Z-10 is developed based on experience gained in manufacturing similar French and Israeli systems.[citation needed] In late 2018, the 2nd generation Chinese HMS designed for Z-10 has been revealed, where a large single eye piece has replaced the two-piece binocular ones in the 1st generation HMS.


Despite the original plan, the millimeter wave (MMW) fire-control radar (FCR) is not standard for Z-10, because the radar was not ready in time. The urgent need forced the early samples of Z-10 to be evaluated without the planned radar, and it was only later that the radar became available. The MMW FCR for Z-10 is developed by China Northern Electronic Co. (中国北方电子公司), a subsidiary of Norinco. This MMW FCR is fully solid state and fully digitized, weighing 69.5 kg, less than half of similar former Soviet system. In comparison, both the Russian Arabelet / FH-101 MMW FCR used on Kamov Ka-50N and the Ukrainian Khinzhal MMW FCR used on Mil Mi-28N weight around 150 kg. In contrast to the Russian system that uses two antennas, the Chinese MMW FCR adopts western approach of using a single antenna, similar to AN/APG-78 used for AH-64D Apache Longbow. The radar is designated as YH, short for Yu Huo (浴火), meaning bathing in fire. YH MMW FCR is fully integrated with other subsystems of the onboard electronic warfare system, such as radar warning receivers (RWR), laser warning receivers (LWR), electronic support measures (ESM), and electronic countermeasures (ECM), the entire EW system is named after the radar.[citation needed]


The stepped tandem cockpit houses two aviators – the gunner in the back and the pilot in the front – different from the conventional layout of most attack helicopters, confirmed by Chinese official news agency's video report. The flight control of both aviators serves to back each other up, and the pilot, who is also the team leader of the aircrew, may override the gunner's commands. The bottom and sides of the cockpit are protected by composite armor, and so are the engines and the fuel tank located in the middle of the fuselage.

The canopy of the cockpit is specially treated to prevent glare from the sun, and, as an additional option, a tanned version is also available for camouflage purposes, though this is not standard. The bullet-proof glass of the canopy may be as thick as 38 millimeters, and is able to withstand direct hits from shrapnel and rounds fired from machine guns up to .50 caliber size. Additional armor plate can be fitted for improved protection.

Guided And Unguided Missles

The air-to-surface missiles deployed by Z-10 include the domestic HJ-8, HJ-9 and HJ-10 anti-tank missiles. The HJ-10 is thought to be similar to AGM-114 Hellfire and it has an anti-helicopter capability in addition to anti-tank capability. In July 2011, Xinhua News Agency released a photo of Z-9WA firing ADK10 air-to-ground missile. ADK10 is reported to be the official name of HJ10 missile.

The main air-to-air missile deployed by Z-10 is TY-90, a missile specifically designed for use by helicopters in aerial combat. TY-90 is claimed to have greater lethality than the MANPAD missiles usually carried by helicopters. The Chinese FN-6 and QW series missiles can also be deployed, as with other non-Chinese MANPADs. TY-90 and MANPADs are often carried in pairs, with a total of 4 carried. When using larger air-to-air missiles such as PL-9 or similar missiles such as AIM-9 Sidewinder, the total number is reduced to 2. The Z-10 fired its first air-to-air missile in mid-August 2013 during a live-fire drill and successfully intercepted low-altitude targets.

Z-10 can be armed with a wide variety of unguided rockets ranging from 20 mm to 130 mm caliber. The largest rockets tested were a type of 130 mm rocket that were carried on the hardpoints just as missiles are carried, while smaller caliber rockets were mounted in conventional rocket pods. The most frequently used rockets are those ranging from 57 mm to 90 mm and a total of 4 pods can be carried under the stub wings, one under each hardpoint. A family of guided 90 mm rackets produced by a subsidiary of Norinco, the Harbin Jiancheng Group (哈尔滨建成集团有限公司), was first revealed in the 9th Zhuhai Airshow held in November 2012, designated as Sky Arrow 90 (Tianjian 90 or Tian Jian 90, Chinese: 天箭 90).


OADS (Optical Air Data System) is mounted at the right side of the cockpit between the exit of the pilot and gunner.

Strategic implications[edit]

In June 2012, United States charged United Technologies and two of its subsidiaries, Pratt & Whitney Canada and Hamilton Sundstrand, of selling engine control software to China which aided in the development of the CAIC Z-10. While the Chinese defence ministry denied that China bought or used the software, Pratt & Whitney Canada and Hamilton Sundstrand agreed to pay more than $75 million to the U.S. government to settle the charges.


China's Army Ground Forces have ordered of 118 with 106 delivered, and 12 more to go, as of 2018. The Pakistan Army acquired 3 units for evaluation with a follow up order for 7 more, but in 2017 they opted for the TAI/AgustaWestland T129 and plan to manufacture aircraft parts in Pakistan.



Prototype for basic tests. Not all has the same layout in that some had fenestron configuration while others had traditional tail rotor configuration, some had chin gun turret while other had chain gun; some had nose-mounted electro-optical system while others had mast-mounted electro-opical system.


Pre-production series powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-76 turboshaft engine.


Simplified Z-10H powered with domestic Chinese WZ-9 engine of 930 – 950 kW range. Due to the drastic reduction of power by nearly a third, MASWS, IRCM and some other subsystems removed; armor is also greatly reduced to save weight.


3 samples built for Pakistan with equipment missing in Z-10K added back, powered by WZ-9C engine with maximum power around 1000 – 1100 kW. Was not selected by Pakistan after evaluation, but the design was used to upgrade Z-10 built earlier when more powerful engine became available.


Upgraded variant first unveiled in 2018 with active and passive countermeasures, missile approach warning system, radar warning receiver, new engine exhaust nozzle pointed upwards to reduce infrared signature, new intake filtration systems and armor panels, more powerful 1200 kW engine, larger ammunition magazine, appliqué graphene-based armor panels, infrared jammer, and a new IFF interrogator.

Z-10 millimeter wave radar

Equipped with Z-19's millimeter wave radar for ground testing.


People's Republic of China

People's Liberation Army Ground Force

Specifications (estimated)[edit]

Data from jczs

General characteristics

Crew: 2

Length: 14.15 m (46 ft 5 in)[citation needed]

Height: 3.85 m (12 ft 8 in)[citation needed]

Empty weight: 5,100 kg (11,244 lb)

Gross weight: 5,540 kg (12,214 lb)

Max takeoff weight: 7,000 kg (15,432 lb)

Powerplant: 2 × WZ-9 turboshaft engines, 1,000 kW (1,300 hp) each[citation needed]

Main rotor diameter: 12 m (39 ft 4 in)


Maximum speed: 270 km/h (170 mph, 150 kn)

Cruise speed: 230 km/h (140 mph, 120 kn)

Range: 800 km (500 mi, 430 nmi)

Service ceiling: 6,400 m (21,000 ft)

g limits: +3

Rate of climb: 10 m/s (2,000 ft/min) +


Guns: 1x 23 mm (0.906 in) revolver gun or 1x 25 mm (0.984 in) M242 Bushmaster chain gun copy

Hardpoints: 4 with a capacity of 1,500 kg (3,307 lb) useful load[citation needed],

Rockets: 57 mm (2.244 in) or 90 mm (3.543 in) unguided rocket pods

Missiles: ** Up to 16 HJ-10 air to surface / anti tank / anti helicopter missiles. ADK10 is reported to be the official name of HJ10 missile.

Up to 16 HJ-8, HJ-9 missiles

Up to 16 TY-90 air-to-air missiles

Up to 4 PL-5, PL-7, PL-9 air-to-air missiles


YH millimetre-wave fire-control radar

Helmet mounted sight with night vision goggles

BM/KG300G self protection jamming pod

Blue Sky navigation pod

KZ900 reconnaissance pod

YH-96 electronic warfare suite