The Z-20 is clearly descended—or at least heavily inspired—by the S-70/UH-60. The helicopters have the same general layout, same high visibility cockpit, engine placement, and tail arrangement. Both have permanently affixed landing gear. The main outward difference between the two is the use of a four bladed main rotor by the UH-60 and a five bladed rotor by the Z-20.


Internally the Z-20 features an interesting detail: according to AVIC, it features a fly-by-wire flight control system. Fly by wire, introduced in fighter planes in the 1970s, uses onboard computers to interpret a pilot’s commands, constantly making subtle changes in the airplane’s flight characteristics. Li Linhua, chief technology expert at AVIC’s China Helicopter Research and Development Institute, told Chinese state media, “The adoption of (fly by wire technology) substantially reduces the Z-20's overall weight and makes it easier to fly.” The use of fly by wire technology could have made up for China’s deficiency in helicopter engine technology, compensating for a less powerful WZ-10 engine.


Like the Blackhawk, the Z-20 is apparently also fated to go to sea. A naval version, the Z-20F, was spotted with a light gray paint job—very different from the PLA’s matte black helicopters. The Z-20F will, as Defense News points out, likely become the Chinese Navy’s main anti-submarine warfare helicopter, replacing the smaller, lighter Z-9 (itself based on the Eurocopter Dauphin.)

Meanwhile back in the land of the Blackhawk, the U.S. Army is studying a series of possible replacements under the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) program. FLRAA, due to enter service in 2030, is the Army’s first new medium size transport aircraft in decades and the service is pushing defense contractors to come up with something radically new. Lockheed Martin’s Defiant platform uses contra-rotating main rotors with a push propeller in the rear. Bell’s V-280 Valor looks like a cross between the Blackhawk and the V-22 Osprey, using tilting engines instead of a tilting wing assembly. The Army wants FLRAA to cruise at up to 280 knots, much faster than the UH-60’s 193 knots.

China may have finally perfected the Copyhawk, but in many ways it’s a generation behind other aircraft programs. It would not at all be surprising if China is already working on its own answer to the U.S. Army’s FLRAA. China fully intends to catch up to the U.S. in all areas of defense technology, a goal that seems more likely with each passing day.