Episode eight of “Chasing Dreams,” titled “Strengthening the Military through Diligence and Struggle,” showcased the army’s recent breakthroughs and progress in advancing high-level combat readiness, efficient struggle, and high-quality development. The episode specifically revealed the exciting news about the upcoming engine upgrade for the WZ-10 armed helicopter.
The video clearly stated that after the installation of the new type of engine, “consistent with predictions, the helicopter’s climb rate can be improved by about 20% and the acceleration can be improved by about 10%.” The engine completed validation with the army in April 2023 and will be widely promoted, further enhancing the helicopter’s ability to perform tasks in complex environments.
The upgrade signifies that the WZ-10 armed helicopter will soon be equipped with a new engine, boasting more excellent power performance output and a broader optimal working range. Both climb rate and acceleration are critical to armed helicopters, as they directly affect the helicopter’s mobility and combat effectiveness.
In particular, an increase in climb rate can further enhance the survival ability of an armed helicopter. In air combat, helicopters often need to perform rapid maneuvers and aerial conversions, such as circling and evading missiles. A higher climb rate can provide a larger climbing gradient, enabling the helicopter to change altitude and position more rapidly.
For a long time, the “heart problem” of the WZ-10 armed helicopter was a significant issue for military enthusiasts. The power system’s shortcomings were seen as the “Achilles’ heel” of the WZ-10.
To counteract the weight problem brought by the temporary domestic engine, a “weight loss competition” involving all the systems of the aircraft platform was initiated. However, due to the inferior performance of the early version of the WZ-9 engine compared to the PT6, the finalized WZ-10 had to significantly reduce its weight, which affected the armor and payload to some extent and slightly reduced the flight envelope.
Nevertheless, the weight reduction created more internal space, paradoxically increasing the fuel capacity, making it the armed helicopter with the largest combat radius at the time.
As ground target killers, armed helicopters need to deal with tests from the ground, including various types of antiaircraft guns and medium and low-altitude air defense missiles. Both enhancement of protective power and mobility performance ultimately require enhancing the mobility ability of the helicopter platform itself.
The development of a homegrown engine is crucial for the independence and reliability of weapon equipment and provides significant support for the development of China’s aviation industry.
Based on the recent improvements of the WZ-10, the WZ-9 engine has already overcome initial challenges, not only supporting the WZ-10 in high-altitude combat missions but also supplying ample power reserves for large-scale composite armor. As the Chinese WZ engine continues to mature, we are starting to see the WZ-10 all over the country, appearing in plateaus and dense forests.
After upgrading the external armor, some WZ-10 armed helicopters have adopted an upward-facing engine exhaust port structure. The advantage of this structure is that the airflow of the helicopter’s main rotor can reduce the exhaust port’s temperature, reduce some infrared features, and reduce the possibility of being locked by some missiles. The disadvantage is that the upward airflow from the tail exhaust port will inevitably increase some of the helicopter’s resistance, requiring more from the engine.
Now, with the comprehensive listing and promotion of the new engine, the development path of the WZ-10 will undoubtedly become broader. As military technology continues to advance and innovate, China is likely to continue to increase research and development efforts on the WZ-10 engine to continuously improve its performance and competitiveness.