Harbin - Eurocopter Z-15 / EC-175


The Zhi-15 (Z-15) is a 6,000kg-class medium utility helicopter jointly developed by Harbin Aviation Industry (Group) Co. Ltd and French Eurocopter. The helicopter aims to fulfil the growing demand for this class of helicopter in both civil and military markets in the next decade. Harbin and Eurocopter signed a joint development and production agreement worth 6 billion Euros in December 2005. Known as EC 175 in its Eurocopter designation, the helicopter is expected to make its first flight in 2009 and become certified in 2012.

Harbin initiated the preliminary researches on the 6,000kg class medium helicopter in the late 1990s. The helicopter was often referred to as the Chinese Medium Helicopter (CMH). According to the report by Flight International, in May 1997 AVIC II and China National Aero-Technology Import-Export Corporation (CATIC) signed a US$70~80 million contract with Eurocopter France to develop an appropriate rotor system, including the main and tail rotor hubs and blades, for the CMH and possibly the
WZ-10 attack helicopter too. In March 1999, Agusta announced that it had signed a US$30 million initial contract with AVIC II and CATIC to develop the gear box and transmission components for the CMH.

At the same time, several Western companies have been competing in providing the CMH with the powerplant. Pratt and Whitney Canada has delivered two of its 1,700hp (1,250kW) PT6C-67C turbo-shafts to China’s Helicopter Research and Development Institute (CHRDI) located at Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province. Torbomeca has also offered at least one unspecified powerplant, and its new 900kW-class Ardiden turbo-shafts specifically designed for 5/6t class helicopters. Agusta, which is helping China develop the transmission system for the CMH, is providing design expertises which may include the final choice on the powerplant options.

According to Chinese media, the medium helicopter project was initially set as a 5,500kg class design, but later changed to 6.000kg after reviewing the potential market needs. The helicopter is likely to enter PLA service in 2015~2020, by which time its current
Mi-8/17, S-70, Z-8 and Z-9 fleets will be reaching their life span. The new 6,000kg class helicopter will possibly available in several variants for army support, naval antisubmarine warfare (ASW), and search and rescue (SAR) roles.

Chinese state media reported that Harbin and Eurocopter signed an agreement to jointly develop and produce a 6,000kg class helicopter known as
Z-15 in its Chinese designation in Paris in December 2005. According to the agreement, each party will shoulder 50% of the total six billion Euros investment to co-develop the helicopter in the coming years. Two assembly lines will be built in China and France respectively. The helicopter is expected to fly in 2009 and receive civil flight approval in 2012. If this goes according the plan, a tactical transport variant of the helicopter may enter PLA service in 2015~2020, possibly followed by a naval variant shortly after.