A Chinese television station doing a news piece on the Ulan-Ude helicopter factory in Russia has shown a low-visibility grey Mi-171Sh combat assault helicopter in People’s Liberation Army markings, revealing a hitherto unknown order from China for the sub-type of the ubiquitous transport helicopter known in Western circles as the ‘Hip’.
The Mi-171Sh will join earlier versions of the Mi-17 family already in service with the PLA Army Aviation, Air Force, and People’s Armed Police (PAP) since 1991. These include the Mi-17, Mi-171, Mi-171V-5/-7 and Mi-171E variants. China is known to have ordered 165 Mi-171Es between 2006 and 2014.
With China also having introduced the Changhe Z-18 heavy – a development of the Aerospatiale Super Frelon – and the Harbin Z-20 medium – what appears to be a reverse-engineered S-70 Black Hawk – helicopters for PLA Army Aviation units, the renewed order for the Mi-171 suggests China plans to increase its air assault capabilities at a faster rate than local production can keep up with.