Chinese TV airs video of swarms of 'Copyhawks' as tensions with Taiwan, India rise

China shows off new Harbin Z-20 helicopters based on 70s-era Black Hawks

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(CCTV 7 screenshot)

(CCTV 7 screenshot)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As tensions rise in the Taiwan Strait and on the Sino-Indian border, Chinese state-run TV posted a video showing swarms of the communist regime's not-so-subtle copies of the U.S. Black Hawk helicopter filling the skies.

The CCTV program "PLA Military Song" (军歌嘹亮) on Tuesday (Sept. 29), aired a video showing scores of Harbin Z-20 medium-lift helicopters filling the skies. The video was significant in that it was the first time the new helicopter has been seen in such large numbers, and it included rare up-close glimpses of the aircraft.

In the brief, one-minute video, the screen is filled with dozens of Harbin Z-20 helicopters and other People's Liberation Army (PLA) rotorcraft. Troops can be seen pouring into larger transport helicopters before the camera cuts to other troops boarding a Z-20.

The video also shows soldiers repelling down from a Z-20, then cuts to close-ups of various features of the helicopter's design. At one point, up to nine of the aircraft can be seen flying in formation.

The video then shows several shots of the helicopter executing basic maneuvers, such as taking off, hovering, cruising, and landing. The propaganda piece closes with a sole Z-20 flying off into the distance with its five rotors and red PLA roundel clearly visible.


Soldiers boarding Z-20. (CCTV 7 screenshot)

Popular Mechanics in 2017 dubbed the Harbin Z-20 the "Copyhawk" due to its strong resemblance to the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk. China first purchased 24 Sikorsky S-70s, the civilian variant of the Black Hawk, for "civilian purposes" but quickly converted them for military use.

As the U.S. halted sales of the helicopters to China after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the PLA in 2006 began developing an indigenous version heavily based on the American aircraft. On Dec. 13, 2013, the Z-20 made its first flight, and it first appeared in public at the 2016 Zhuhai Airshow.

Several Z-20s flew in formation for the first time at the Chinese National Day Parade on Oct. 1, 2019. In addition to being used to project force and transport troops and materiel, the helicopters can also be equipped for service with the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) on destroyers, amphibious assault ships, and aircraft carriers, as well as be outfitted for anti-submarine warfare.

The release of the video comes as the PLA continues to launch provocative military exercises in the Taiwan Strait. The footage could also be a message to Indian audiences that China is boosting its capability to deploy forces to the Ladakh region.