China’s Z-10 Attack Helicopters: Getting Ready for a Taiwan War?

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December 29, 2020 Topic: Security Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: ChinaPLA NavyAmphibious Assault ShipType 075TaiwanSouth China Sea

China’s Z-10 Attack Helicopters: Getting Ready for a Taiwan War?

Beijing is copying American tactics and plans to use its modern weapon systems to invade the island if the go order is ever given.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is preparing for air and amphibious attacks upon the island of Taiwan and strategically crucial areas of the South China Sea, using new air-assault raid tactics and high-speed attack helicopters.

The preparations, which included a number of Chinese Z-10 attack helicopters and Mi-171 transport helicopters, involved over-the-sea transport and landing exercises in the sea region south of East China’s Fujian Province, the Chinese government-backed Global Times reported in a new story, citing China Central Television. 

“Z-10 attack helicopters and Mi-171 transport helicopters skimmed over the sea in formations to break up defense positions, as they fast-maneuvered to an unknown island on the high seas,” the report said

Much of the discussion in the essay centered upon the use of newly emerging Chinese Type 075 amphibious assault ships as maritime “helicopter carriers” intended to bring new dimensions to amphibious ocean attack. 

The report credits the Chinese helicopter units as finding an enterprising method of using up to eight ropes with which attacking air assault raid forces can use to rappel from Mi-171 helicopters at a much faster pace than that which is possible by merely using two ropes. 

What is perhaps most significant about the report is the fact that it specifically cites Taiwan and island chains in the South China Sea as locations that would naturally lend themselves to being more susceptible to these kinds of assaults. 

“Amphibious assault ships mainly conduct vertical deployment and landing missions on islands and reefs like the island of Taiwan and those in the South China Sea,” the Global Times report says.

What is interesting about this is that once again, and not at all surprisingly, Chinese tactics, exercises and combat strategies appear to closely mirror, if not fully replicate U.S. activities. The use of amphibious assault ships an mini aircraft carriers has long been on the U.S. radar and only continues to accelerate. This is particularly true when it comes to the U.S. America-class amphibious assault ships and the arrival of the Marine Corps F-35B. 

Upgrades to the U.S. V-22 Osprey also figure prominently in this equation, as the high-speed tiltrotor aircraft continues to receive new digital interoperability intelligence networks, aerial refueling technology, improved avionics, and possibly precision-guided air-launched weapons. Ospreys, and MH-60R helicopters, among others, already conduct the kind of Mounted Vertical Maneuvers described in the Global Times report as operations demonstrated in the helicopter exercises. 

Another interesting fact about the Global Times report is what it leaves out. The maritime employment of helicopters for attack, transport, and reconnaissance relies upon much more than an ability to conduct air assault raids. U.S. Navy and Marine Corps helicopters, for example, engage in extensive transport, reconnaissance, countermine, and anti-submarine missions. 

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Image: Reuters.