Developed to replace the Harbin Z-8, the Changhe Z-18 was built as a medium utility helicopter currently in service with the People’s Liberation Army.
Z-18 is manufactured by Changhe Aircraft Industries Corporation, with its first flight in 2014, and was officially launched in 2018. The helicopter was developed based on the AC313, which is a derivative of the French SA-321 Super Frelon.
Compared to the Z8, the Z-18 was redesigned with a wider fuselage and more powerful engines. The result is an overall more efficient performance than its predecessor. It also reportedly makes greater use of titanium and composites in its rotor blades and rotor, and replaces the Z-8’s boat-shaped lower fuselage with a tail ramp for small vehicles.
The Z-18 can transport up to 4 tons internally or 5 tons externally. It accommodates about 27 passengers. Alternatively it can carry about 14 stretchers, plus medical attendants. The Z-18 was tested on the Tibetan plateau in January 2015. The helicopter is said to have achieved a record when reaching an altitude of 9,000 m. It is the first time a large helicopter managed to fly that high. The Z-18 is powered by three WZ-6C turboshafts, for a max speed of 336 km/h, and a range of up to 1000 km.
The Z-18 is available in several variants. The Z-18A is an utility variant for the Chinese army. The Z-18F is a ASW variant with chin-mounted surface search radar, dipping sonar, and may be equipped with up to four lightweight torpedoes and 32 sonobuoys. The Z-18J is an Airborne early warning (AEW) variant, developed for the Chinese navy. It has a redesigned rear door with retractable radar antenna.