China unveiled an indigenously developed attack helicopter yesterday as it eyes a lucrative export market and ramps up an ambitious modernization program.
China has rattled nerves around the region with its plan to reform its military, the world's largest, focusing on quality over quantity and replacing old equipment and tactics dating back decades, underpinned by billions of US dollars in spending.
The Z-19E, developed by the state- owned AVIC Harbin Aircraft Industry, took to the skies over the city of Harbin for its maiden flight, with images carried on state television.
"The helicopter is the latest narrow- body tandem-seat armed helicopter. It is also the country's first export- oriented helicopter made especially for attack purposes," state news agency Xinhua said.
It is specifically designed to meet the requirements of the foreign market, it added.
"It is able to be deployed for battlefield support and a variety of other missions in a complicated battlefield environment during both day and night," said Li Shengwei, deputy chief designer of AVIC Harbin Aircraft Industry.
The Z-19E is mainly intended to attack tanks, armored vehicles and other ground targets, flying at very low altitudes, Xinhua added.