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Z-19 fitted with Longbow-style radar breaks cover

The first images have emerged of a new variant of the Harbin Z-19 light attack helicopter, equipped with a new mast-mounted active millimeter-wave (MMW) radar that appears similar to the Lockheed Martin AN/APG-78 Longbow fire control radar fitted to the Boeing AH-64 Apache.

Sources on Chinese military web pages have indicated it may be a lightweight version of a mast-mounted radar originally designed for the seven-tonne Changhe Z-10.

The sources have also suggested that Chinese MMW radar research began in the 1980s at the Xian Electronic Engineering Research Institute, and that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) was investigating its application for helicopters as early as 2003. It appears China made a deliberate decision to develop fixed active MMW technology for future helicopter radars, rather than for mechanically rotating radar systems.

An image of an early mast-mounted radar emerged in March 2007. In addition, the Harbin Z-9 has been used to test mast-mounted devices that could have been radar or optical systems. As elements of the Z-9, based on the French Aerospatiale (now Eurocopter) SA 365 Dauphin, were used in the Z-19's design, this would help explain the early appearance of a mast-mounted radar on the Z-19.

Sichuan Aerospace Industries Co displayed an 8 mm MMW radar for the C-701 small attack missile at the 2000 Zhuhai Airshow. Chinese sources have signalled that an MMW radar-guided variant of the Norinco AKD-10 air-launched anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) may be in development. The AKD-10 is used by the Z-10 and Z-19.

In order to compensate for the added weight of the mast-mounted radar, engine upgrades for the Z-10 and Z-19 may also be under consideration. So far, an estimated 100 Z-10 and 80 Z-19 attack helicopters have been produced for the army aviation branch of the PLA's ground forces.

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