Did China Just Clone a Black Hawk Helicopter?
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Did China Just Clone a Black Hawk Helicopter?


China conducted the first flight test of a new helicopter that is widely seen as being modeled off the U.S.-made Sikorsky UH-60, which is usually called “Black Hawk.”

The Global Times, citing pictures from an online Chinese military forum, reported that the Z-20 medium-lift utility helicopter made its first flight in northeast China on Monday. The report said that the supposedly homemade design filled the People Liberation Army’s need for a medium utility helicopter. It added that the helicopter has a capacity of 10 tons and is similar in appearance to the U.S.-made Black Hawk helicopter.

In the 1980s, China purchased 24 S-70C-2s, a supposed civilian variant of the Black Hawk that had impressed Chinese leaders due to its ability to fly at high altitudes. However, it is widely believed that the 24 S-70 C-2s are operated by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Moreover, Pakistan’s intelligence service gave Chinese engineers access to one of the highly-modified Black Hawks that was used by U.S. Marines in the operation that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011. The helicopter that Chinese engineers viewed and took samples from crashed during the course of the operation. Although the U.S. Marines detonated the downed helicopter the tail of it survived the explosion.

Thus, it seems quite possible that this latest “indigenous” creation from China was heavily inspired by foreign designs. There would be extensive precedent for this. Besides China’s general history of cloning foreign defense technology, last year it unveiled a new helicopter, the Z-10/WZ-10 attack helicopter, which it claimed was designed and built indigenously. Earlier this year, however, Sergei Mikheyev, General Designer of the Kamov Design Bureau, a Russian helicopter designer, revealed that his company had secretly provided China with the initial designs of the Z-10/WZ-10 in the mid-1990s. Some have speculated that China has also cloned Boeing’s AH-64D Apache.   

Still, The Aviationist points out that there are some notable differences between America’s Black Hawk and the Z-20. Specifically, the Z-20 has a 5-blade rotor compared to the 4-blade rotor on the Black Hawk, a larger cabin and a different landing gear and tail. Based on the location of the flight test, Aviation Week suspects that it was built by Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation (HAMC).

As for usage, South China Morning Post quotes a Chinese military analyst as saying the Z-20 “fills a blank in the Chinese military arsenal.” Another military commentator who appeared on Chinese state TV reportedly said that the Z-20 should be categorized as something between agile attack helicopters and heavy transportation helicopters. SCMP views the helicopter as extremely versatile and able to perform a variety of missions including assault, transportation, electronic warfare and special operations. The Hong Kong-based newspaper also said Chinese media reports had speculated that it may be flown off certain Chinese ships, including the country’s only aircraft carrier. Another potential usage would be to use the Z-20 to deploy PLA troops to the mountainous, resistive region of Tibet.

The Aviationist predicts the Z-20 will eventually replace the PLA’s Mi-17 and Mi-171 helos.

February 22, 2014 at 23:08

At some point, some should advise the chinese commie government that copying is a serious threat to the country credibility as an independant nation.

Anyway, China is a bubble. They are no threat.

February 3, 2014 at 15:35

“this sure look like a copy to me” many said, without the slightest understanding how the Chinese get the idea of this helicopter. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel when you have already seen a wheel working. I agree it is simply stupid to spend energy re-inventing what is already there working. This goes for any equipment of device. All you really need is to improve upon it. You can see all fighter planes really look alike from different countries because there are law of aerodynamics that dictate the shape of a fighter. The smart people will be “inspired” by some examples and carry out research, based on new theoretical work, to upgrade each and every function of the device. There is no need even to copy because copying may even slow you down, by copying the obsolete. The Black hawks were there for more than 30 years, what make you think the Chinese need to copy something that old. They will go for the most modern concepts and functions, instead of going back in time.

February 3, 2014 at 02:13

Undoubtedly, I am convinced that China has stoled tremendous amount of secrets, designs or information on US & Western technology through cyber espionage.

Then with or without modification, they copied or sometimes even improve them

Ethics aside, this is the quickest and easiest way for China to catch up.

I therefore agree with what @Albert Spencer has posted :
By Albert Spencer : I do agree, that if you are smart, you copy and improves, as it is a lot quicker and cheaper.

Only dumb heads will try to reinvent the wheels.

Reverse engineering also has the benefit that you end up knowing about your opponent capability and you can come up with counter measures.

Commentators here may despise and accuse China for copying, thiefs, etc of technology…but of what gain do you get other than satisfying your individual egos ?

And what do we achieve to stop China other than driving yourself up the wall ?

Cry, stomp,forbid, curse or swear…the Chinese couldn’t care two hoods for your frustration. This is the reality that we have to recognise regardless of our moral stands or disgusts.

They will continue with their practice until in 2 decades or earlier, I am of the opinion that they will soon hit the cusp of scientific innovation, which will mean they will suddenly take off and be counted as significant future innovators.

In the meantime, you can bet that China will not respect intellectual property, will continue to indulge persistently in industrial espionage etc until they feel they are on par with Western scientific innovations, which then they might abide by IP laws, patents, etc.

February 14, 2014 at 19:01

What makes you think the west did not steal from the East. How do you think the US got to its present position? All by itself? It has borrowed, stole, spied, hacked into every known source/crevice there is to get what it wants. What you see is the obvious. What you don’t see is what they won’t tell. You can’t copy effectively if you are not smart.

pham thrung suc
December 31, 2013 at 17:03

yes I agree with anyone here, I don’t like china products in reality. I would rather choose taiwan, japanese and pilippines electronic products. china products who sold here in hanoi cause death due to poor quality.

chris tidman
December 30, 2013 at 02:16

Every business corporation in China is half owned by the Chinese government. This means that what they have is a Chinese Communist Plutocracy as compared to the American Democratic Plutocracy.

The people let out of China to roam around the world are the same people who own the means of production in China.

When the world adopted the present world monetary system the Chinese shipped 7 battleships of gold to the USA in exchange for the US Dollar gold certificates.

Then the Chinese went through a government change and the new government had to start with nothing, and the private US bankers had spent the contents of the vault which makes the gold certificates none redeemable.

If the Chinese people take over, they have probably already paid more than enough for the priviledge of a turn at the top.

December 28, 2013 at 22:42

Would the “extensive precedent” be Bill Clinton?

December 28, 2013 at 16:48

Imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Guenter haas
December 28, 2013 at 06:05

Crybaby. How many patents were picked up from germany as spoils of war. You could write a book about it.

January 1, 2014 at 13:39

i agree with you sir..

Need a clarification
December 28, 2013 at 05:44

could you please either clarify or state your source in crediting the US Marines for the operation for Osama Bin Laden? The Marines have a much more secretive unit that is very similar to the SEALS, however the SEALS are typically given credit for the operation. Do you wish to clarify or do you know something different than the rest of us?

sunful Tulip
December 27, 2013 at 23:32

America is a victim of some of its foreign policies. they gave d Chinese the initiative to clone the chopper the moment they impose the ban. China kept them running for more than 25yrs without American spare parts. They perfected their knowledge of the machine making their parts. The ban has not benefited US and the WEST much because what they refused to sell china has either been developed or stolen by China at a great financial lost to US.

December 27, 2013 at 13:13

I dislike this , how can you call yourself strong stealing American muscle….. smh…

Lauren Garza
December 27, 2013 at 11:50

Well, America came up with the Blackhawk. So what are they going to call this? How about the Chickenhawk?

December 27, 2013 at 10:32

The Americans are again ignorant of what they copied themselves in their very recent and short history:
1. The US constitution was written on PAPER – a chinese invention
2. The US celebrates Independence Day with their “traditional” fireworks – another Chinese invention
3. The US has a central bank that is based indirectly on the first centralised bank system in the world – in China 1400 years ago
4. The US’ system of standardised examinations system (eg. SATS, TOFFLE etc) are based on the UK system of exams which were implemented and copied from China in the 1700s
5. the system of ministries and departments in administration in the US and UK were copied by the British from China again in the 1700s
6. Benjamin Franklin’s lighting-key experiment would have been impossible without another Chinese invention – the kite
7. Today’s modern foldable umbrella has designs that were copied from China (invented in the Han dynasty about 1800 to 2200 years ago) – the design remains relevant and in use today. They were imported by the British and gained popularity since as brolleys

The list does not end here: including the world’s first recorded manned flight, first ice cream , toilet paper, books, etc

Unfortunately, many remain ignorant of these facts and continue to perpetuate myths that demonise and dehumanise the Other.

We Chinese are everywhere – within western institutions, government, banks, military, intelligence agencies. The Chinese are masters of psychological warfare and know what makes Senators wake up in cold sweat at night, and what makes them obey instructions. Bankers even more so.

American Guy
December 27, 2013 at 15:44

I cant tell if this post is serious but I am LMAO! Yep the world owes everything to Chinese fireworks hahah! China hasnt invented anything in centuries, can only beg or steal tech from the west, what a shameful country!

February 3, 2014 at 01:07

@American Guy. This is what Guenter haas has posted above : How many patents were picked up from germany as spoils of war. You could write a book about it.

Over to you…American Guy.

PS: I wish to add too those hundreds of captured WW2 German scientists who were coerced to work for the Americans. And after Imperial Japan’s defeat, those top end manufacturing equipment and their designs shipped to USA for examination and copying where relevant.

December 27, 2013 at 17:18

And those ancient inventions were the last time anyone in China invented anything.

Chinese innovation is CTRL C, CTRL V.

December 28, 2013 at 01:33

@Bored and American Guy,

Three things you need to understand.

First, If the US and China switch places, you will see the exact same behavior from the Americans that you now blame the Chinese for. This is just human nature. It’s called stupidity if one doesn’t want to learn better technologies with minimum costs. Besides, there was no such a phrase as “copyright” until 300 years ago. And how long has the concept of “Intellectual Property” surfaced?

Second, if others are “stealing” your IP, usually it is because either A) your “stolen IP” is in fact worthless and anyone can do it — a good example would be those rediculously expensive designer bags; or B), you didn’t provide you IP with the level of protection that matches its value — only by investing in protection to keep others from the know-how can you make profit out of your IP — if you don’t want to invest enough, it’s your too bad that your precious IP got stolen.

Third, in particular to the defence technologies, the West imposed arms embargo against China since 1989 is still in place. You just don’t have a position to call China “shamelessly” stealing your weapon designs. If you have chosen coercive means in your attempt to make your opponent comply, what would you expect from your opponent? I bet you don’t know that China is probably the only foreign country that paid the Russians for the license to produce the AK-47 assult rifles, but media bias is not the topic here.

Since the concept of IP portection is so new, whoever invented this concept is “changing the status quo”, thus bear the responsibility of showing other parties why it is beneficial for them to help you enforce it. Again, every human being has done, and will do the same “IP stealing” when the situation suits the needs, so please don’t make your comments sound racism.

If you have time, read my other comment below about the structural differences between S-70 and Z-20. It will give you some actual knowledge, no IP claim attached.

December 28, 2013 at 03:21

Recent Chinese inventions:
2003 – electronic cigarette
2011 – Self cleansing cloth
2013 –
New process – to make invisibility cloak in 15 minutes
worlds lightest material
first semi-floating gate transistor chip
octopus mimicking computer

December 28, 2013 at 18:51

Let me settle the argument against intelligent design once and for all people…ready?


There you have it, that simple…they are the contrary of intelligent design

Anyway…Americans aren’t afraid and WILL ask this simple question: Why Not?
Whereas the Mainlanders are programmed to basic say this: Because.
That one guy who I am replying to make the Mainlanders out to be some kind of elusive, infiltrating force to be reckoned with…the truth of the matter is they are nothing but products of their institutions: predictable, souless, and a dime-a-dozen or is that an RMB-a-billion.
Here’s the thing boys and girls and the others (mainlanders): unlike the state sponsored mouthpieces that aren’t permitted to air ANYTHING that is against the approved narrative, we free-ranging (primarily western nations and select others) can cry, complain, and bellyache all we want about our respective governing institutions and leaders. Does anyone here really think for a MOMENT that the United States (yes, I LOVE my country) doesn’t have sh*t you can’t even begin to fathom to countermeasure the “best” any comer has to throw at us?
Anyway, you could fool me with whatever the hell it is the mainlanders have invented: whether it is soap, toilet paper…whatever…they don’t use any of it today. Come on, go there and see for yourself…of just go to Hong Kong and look for the throngs of them (you can spot them easily, they are the rude, scuzzy ones cackling out load, pushing, spitting, deficating and looking like something from the B-squad of Project Runway first round rejects)…go ahead: ask what Hong Kongers, Singaporeans, Taiwanese, or others think of them.

December 27, 2013 at 04:23

I’d like to point out that between the S-70 (H-60) and this new Z-20, there is one difference that might be visually tiny, but of vital importance aerodynamically.

The tail rotor of S-70 is tilted by about 20 degree, while the tail rotor of Z-20 is perfectly perpendicular. This indicates that the center of mass of S-70 is located behind its main rotor, which creates a head-up tail-down torque when airborne. The tilted tail rotor is there to provide an tail-up torque to conpensate that. For the Z-20, the perpendicular tail rotor indicates that its center of mass is conventionally located, slightly ahead of the main rotor. So there is no need to compensate the “head-up” torque. This is a proof that the structural designs of these two choppers are fundamentally different, no matter how visually similar they might be.

The similar looking between the S-70 and Z-20 is largely due to the fact that both have a”low tail” with tail wheel, which is not common for helicopters in the midium or heavy weight classes, such as Mi-17 or Eurocopter NH90. The main benefit of a low tail design is that it reduces the over-all height of the helicopter, making it easier to transport them by C-130 or similar tactical airlifters. Also, the long distance between main wheels and tail wheel makes it stabler when landing on un-even grounds. The trade-off is that choppers with low tail cannot have a tail gate/ramp.

December 27, 2013 at 03:23

It’s likely an imperfect or modified copy.

My question is I’m sure China had access to the Blackhawk in some form or fashion long before this, so why did they wait until now to clone it?

December 27, 2013 at 17:27

The engines, transmission system and blades. It took 30 years for them to be able to design and build advanced engines, one for gunboat Z-10 and the other one for this Z-20. The shape is least important because Blackhawk is the only airframe design in the would which allows itself to be fitted into a Y-8 transporter (or C-130).

December 27, 2013 at 17:37

Sorry, should be “Blackhawk is the only airframe design in its class (10 tonne class) in the world which allows itself to be fitted into a Y-8 transporter (or C-130 likewise)”.

December 29, 2013 at 12:45

Cool. Thanks for the explanation!

December 27, 2013 at 01:03

“Still, The Aviationist points out that there are some notable differences between America’s Black Hawk and the Z-20. Specifically, the Z-20 has a 5-blade rotor compared to the 4-blade rotor on the Black Hawk, a larger cabin and a different landing gear and tail”

So they’re saying that it looks like a “duck” except that its slightly bigger, doesn’t have webbed feet and doesn’t quack… LOL seems like a copy to me.

December 26, 2013 at 23:55

According to Chinese source this project was code name “CopyHawk”. LOL. And I am serious.

admiral cheng
December 27, 2013 at 01:12

Jealously will not bring you anywhere. What makes you think China copied the USA. It can be possible that USA might have stolen the design from China.

December 27, 2013 at 08:24

Really? The US has been flying the Blackhawk for over 20 years. So that would mean that the Chinese are just now building their design two decades after the US stole their it from them? You are demoted to seaman! Admiral!!

Kangmin Zheng
December 27, 2013 at 09:08

It’s safe to think Red China copied the USA.

December 27, 2013 at 11:41

Cheng, how many original innovative products has China produced on its own? It’s not a secret that China is the world’s leader in intellectual property theft. This is seen everywhere from Chinese students blatantly cheating in foreign schools to its manufacturing sector duplicating and selling clones of almost every foreign electronic product.

US Marine
December 27, 2013 at 11:42

Cheng, how many original innovative products has China produced on its own? It’s not a secret that China is the world’s leader in intellectual property theft. This is seen everywhere from Chinese students blatantly cheating in foreign schools to its manufacturing sector duplicating and selling clones of almost every foreign electronic product.

December 27, 2013 at 13:37

Most analysis forgot that China was operating 24 S70C. After Tiananman Incidence, America ban all S70C spare parts to China and most of the S70C were grounded. Then, China has to localize way of produce the necessary spare parts and after more than 20 years China have master them all and managed to keep their S70C flying. So, after mastering all their spare parts requirement herself, naturally China will be able to build a similar one or similar capability helicopter without any more problem for China.

December 27, 2013 at 17:34

Yes all the remaining S-70C are still flying with high exposure to the public, which implies that they are already using parts made in China.

Albert Spencer
December 28, 2013 at 19:34

I do agree, that if you are smart, you copy and improves, as it is a lot quicker and cheaper.
Only dumb heads will try to reinvent the wheels.
Reverse engineering also has the benefit that you end up knowing about your opponent capability and you can come up with counter measures.

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