Why China’s new helicopter belongs to the US

Written by Jason Legitman for CNN Hong Kong

Hunter Biden’s diplomatic experience spans two generations.

A former U.S. ambassador to Romania and Romania’s former foreign minister, he has also served as a state department advisor to President Barack Obama and has been described as the country’s Ambassador to China.

He’s the son of former Vice President Joe Biden and a nephew of Vice President-elect, Senator Joe Biden.

Throughout his work on the US government’s 20-year, over USD$300 billion arms embargo policy, which ended in December 2014, the VP, known for his controversial behavior, didn’t hesitate to question their sale to a dictator.

Over four months of negotiation, the PMC Group, a defense contractor based in the US , played a key role in securing an additional $3.5 billion worth of helicopters and equipment for China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

Planned to begin operating from 2018, the new aircraft, mostly made by Italian and Swedish companies, will significantly extend China’s ability to meet its helicopter industry ambitions, with a fleet of up to 270 helicopters over 20 years.

These capabilities are designed to increase China’s ability to house VIP aircraft, and to improve its military deployments against what its military calls the “great dragon” of Japan, Taiwan and the South China Sea.


PLAAF owns a fleet of over 700 combat aircraft, including nearly 500 T-6A Texan II trainer planes, and 12 T-50 Golden Eagle jet trainers.

The T-50s are known as “strategic” aircraft, so the number of AW169s, the next generation of China’s fighter aircraft, is necessary to augment the training of the current T-50s.


To do this, Chinese manufacturers with experience in helicopter engines were sourced, with PMC Group providing a large share of the engines and the support that requires.

Take the AW169, which is equipped with a Pratt & Whitney CFM46 engine, initially designed and built in Russia for the General Atomics Reaper.

WATCH: China unveils secret new fighter

Initially developed in the Soviet Union for use by a single aircraft, a trio of Beijing government’s factories — PMC-Advanced Aircraft & Guojiazheng Aircraft Industry – have now begun producing four off-the-shelf engines for China’s new helicopter program, making the AW169’s propulsion a major commercial success story for the PMC Group.

“Chinese shipbuilders are moving out of shipbuilding to other sectors, from R&D and land to support industries. The ultimate goal is to have this group move out of the support and save hundreds of millions of dollars,” said company president Jim Forbes.

Aside from the engines themselves, PMC-Advanced Aircraft & Guojiazheng Aerospace are responsible for other critical maintenance and maintenance components that are largely non-discretionary, in order to maintain a high quality level throughout its equipment.


However, the powerplants aren’t enough. Aircraft tend to be integrated in a very specific manner, with the cockpit and avionics usually provided by Pratt & Whitney or General Electric, and other systems supplied by European firms.

WATCH: That Chinese pilot to Western aircraft — with problems

PMC-Advanced Aircraft & Guojiazheng Aircraft were responsible for providing those systems. For the first time, the helicopter’s avionics system was built in-house at the state-owned Aircraft Industrial Group company in Beijing, while other system integration was a collaborative effort.

Automation was particularly important for the AW169’s airframe and its advanced flight control system, known as the Super RL-10/ RP-20. PMC-Advanced Aircraft & Guojiazheng Aircraft have been developing and testing a series of autonomous flight control systems for several years.

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