Sergei Mikheyev, general designer of the Kamov Design Bureau, has revealed that the Russian helicopter company secretly designed the baseline version of the Z-10 attack helicopter for China in the mid-1990s.
The two-seat helicopter made its public debut at the 2012 Zhuhai air show in China, having undergone extensive testing by the People’s Liberation Army for several years. While an outward resemblance to the AgustaWestland A129 Mangusta was widely discussed, no connection was ever made to Kamov until Mikheyev’s announcement at the Heli-Expo convention here on March 6.
Commenting during a briefing on the Kamov product line, Mikheyev says the decision to reveal the Russian company’s role in the design of the Z-10 followed its unveiling by China at the air show late last year.
Kamov worked on the preliminary design at China’s request in 1995. “Due to understandable reasons this was kept secret, but we made the design and it was accepted by China,” Mikheyev says. The baseline design, which was known internally as Project 941, “was accepted for development,” he adds.
Until now, it was generally believed that the aircraft had been designed in China and that the only real foreign input was in the powerplant.
The Z-10’s development has been highly controversial. Five aircraft were powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67C engines fitted with full authority digital engine controls developed by Hamilton Sundstrand. Following investigations by federal agencies, United Technologies Corp., the parent company of the two firms, was fined $75 million for violating the Arms Export Control Act and making false statements in connection with the illegal export to China of U.S.-origin military software in June 2012.
According to evidence heard in the trial, China has sourced the engines under the pretense of producing a civil medium transport. PW&C provided up to 10 engines for the aircraft. Since then, it has been suggested that Z-10 manufacturer Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation has had to use a lower-rated indigenously-built engine in the helicopter, forcing it to undertake a significant weight-saving program until a new, more powerful engine becomes available.
Kamov is better known for its co-axial designs such as the Ka-32 transport helicopter and also the Ka-50/52 attack helicopters. The company is producing the Ka-62 utility helicopter.
“So I wish success to the helicopter,” Mikheyev adds.