A Z-8KH with the People's Liberation Army Air Force.
SA 321 Super Frelon is the base model for development of Changhe Z-8 helicopter.
The Z-8 is powered by a Chinese copy of Turbomeca Turmo engine.

The Changhe Z-8 (Zhishengji-8) is a triple engine, multi-role helicopter designed and manufactured by the Changhe Aircraft Industry Group (CAIG) of China. It is derived from SA 321 Super Frelon Helicopter built by Aerospatiale.

The helicopter entered service in 1989. About 15 to 20 Z-8 helicopters are currently serving the People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF).

The Z-8 was designed to execute both civil and military missions. The civil operations of the aircraft include geological survey, aerial mapping, construction, forest fire protection, power line erection and communication.

The military uses of the Z-8 include liaison, search and rescue, firefighting, frontier patrol, troop transport, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and emergency medical service (EMS).

CAIG developed Z-18 medium transport helicopter to replace the Z-8. Z-18 performed its first flight in 2014 and it was inducted into the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) 2018.

Changhe Z-8 development

The development of the Z-8 began in 1976 at the Jingdezhen-based Changhe Aircraft Factory. The development programme was delayed in 1979 due to technical difficulties and financial crisis. CAIG resumed the programme in 1985 with its own funding. The maiden flight of the first Z-8 prototype took place in December 1985. The second prototype took its first flight in October 1987.

The domestic type approval was granted in April 1989. The Z-8 entered service with the PLANAF in August 1989.

Z-8 helicopter design and features

The design of Changhe Z-8 began in 1976 and the final design was approved in November 1994. The helicopter is designed to manoeuvre even in bad weather conditions.

A six-bladed main rotor system is mounted on the centre of the upper fuselage section, while its tail rotor comprises five blades.

The fuselage section was designed in a robust semi-monocoque shape with boat-hull inside its bottom.

The Z-8 features a flight control system, gear boxes, a horizontal stabiliser, and bar-shape array radar. It is also equipped with a 275kg hoist and winch as well as a scoop fitted atop starboard side cabin door for rescue missions.

It is fitted with a standard fuel tank of 3,900l capacity. An auxiliary fuel tank installed in the cabin offers extended-range, increasing the total capacity to 5,800l.

Changhe Z-8 helicopter variants

The Z-8 has four variants the Z-8A, Z-8F, Z-8K/KA and Z-8JA/JH.

The Z-8A is a military version of the original model Z-8 and is used for transportation.

The Z-8F is an advance utility variant which is used for search and rescue, general utility and logistics support missions.

The Z-8K is an enhanced version of Z-8F, built primarily to execute search and rescue missions. This variant is also fitted with forward looking infra-red (FLIR) sensors and a search light underneath the cockpit.

The Z-8JA is a ship-borne variant of Z-8 capable of landing on water. Z-8JA and Z-8JH are currently in service with PLANAF, executing transport and medical evacuation operations respectively.

Avicopter AC313 is a modernised derivative of the Z-8.

Cockpit and landing gear

The glass-cockpit seats a pilot and a co-pilot. It is fitted with two cockpit doors and broad side sliding windows for providing clear visibility to the cockpit crew.

The cabin provides plenty of space for passengers on-board. It incorporates ventilators, heaters, a hydraulic actuated rear loading door, soundproof and vibration proof systems. It can accommodate 27 fully armed troops or 15 medical stretchers.

The helicopter is fitted with a non-retractable tricycle type landing gear comprising two wheels and low air pressure shock absorbers.

The hull shaped landing gear allows the helicopter to take-off or land on water during emergencies.


The Z-8 is fitted with a HS-12 dipping sonar, sonobuoys and an A244S torpedo under the fuselage section. It uses YJ-81 or YJ-83K air-to-surface missiles (ASM) for anti-ship operations.

The helicopter can be armed with rockets and gunpods on the external pylons for anti-piracy missions.

Engine and performance

The Z-8 is powered by three Changzhou WZ-6 turboshaft engines, each of which can produce 1,128kW of output power.

Two engines are fitted adjacent to each other on the forward fuselage of the main rotor, while the third is integrated behind the main rotor system. It is a Chinese copy of the French-developed Turbomeca Turmo engine.

The Z-8F is installed with three Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67B turboshaft engines.

The Z-8 can climb at the rate of 690m/min. Its maximum and cruise speeds are 315km/h and 266km/h respectively.

The economical cruise speed is 255km/h. The range of the helicopter is 700km and the service ceiling is 3,100m. Its maximum endurance is four hours.