Western information on advanced Chinese military aviation projects, including those involving stealth technology, is often derived from photos or video shot at public events such as airshows or heads of states’ visits to research institutions. Television cameras revealed a significant-looking new helicopter design on May 19 displayed in model form at government-controlled AVIC China Helicopter Research and Development Institute in Jingdezhen, East China’s Jiangxi Province. Jiangxi Television broadcast the May 19 inspection visit by Liu Qi, party chief of Jiangxi.
Western military experts noted possible stealth features in its airframe, rotor and exhaust designs. Other potentially stealth characteristics include apparent aerodynamic radar cross section reductions, a low-noise rotor system, upward-facing exhaust outlets on the back of the tail boom to reduce thermal signature and low-visibility paint.
Adding incremental improvements to reduce radar, noise and heat output—all of which help adversaries locate and track a warplane—can make an existing design less observable, if not fully “stealthy.” Research into dedicated stealth aircraft, such as the F-35, can provide strategies for making existing designs less vulnerable in the battle space. Some observers have speculated that the helicopter in the television footage could be a “stealthified” version of China’s Z-20 medium-size rotorcraft. One factor that cannot usually be revealed in video or photos is how much, if any, of the metal surface of a conventional aircraft might have been replaced with low-radar-reflective composite material.