Hello guys, today I am suggesting a new replacement starter helicopter for China - A Mi-171 transport helicopter armed with exclusively and only rockets! (`･ω･´)
While that might not be as flavourful and utilitarian as the Z-11WA, this may also give our beloved helicopter a chance to receive better armaments and to prove itself at a higher BR, especially considering that Z-11WA has thermal imaging on it. In fact, I would consider this helicopter much better than the Italian/Japanese starter Hueys, as this helicopter possess the capability to carry more rockets.
After the fall of Soviet Union, Mi-171 was introduced by the Russian Federation as one of their export utility helicopters. The helicopter itself is a direct export version of the Russian Mi-8AMT, which itself is a slightly modified Mi-8MTV produced in the Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant instead of the Kazan Helicopters. In 2007, the last batch of Mi-171 built in Ulan-Ude were delievered to China, and in that same year production of further Mi-171 helicopters was started at Sichuan, China.
Iin the mid-2000s, images of an armed Chinese Mi-171 circulated on the internet.
Since the Mi-171 delievered by Ulan-Ude were all intended for civilian/general purposes, it is likely that these armed variants were modified by the Sichuan Helicopter Plant to carry rocket pods on each side.
Further history for Chinese Mi-17, Mi-171, and subsequent variants
Ever since the formation of Russian Federation, China has been an active buyer of Russian Mi-17V/Mi-171 helicopters as a transport and search and rescue helicopter.
While the last batch of Chinese Mi-171 were delievered in 2007, the story of Chinese Mi-171s did not end here. After finding out the weakness of Mi-171 on mountainous regions, China realized they needed a better engine instead of the original Klimov TV3-117VM. Therefore, their military looked to Rosoboronexport again to acquire the newer Mi-171E, which is equipped with the rugged VK-2500-03 engine that can withstand mountainous temperatures. Orders for the Mi-171E were signed separately at 2009 and 2012.
And for the plant in Sichuan, aside from arming the Mi-171 helicopters, they also helped with modernizing older Mi-17/Mi-17Vs into Mi-171. Little to none was known whether the Sichuan Plant has domestically produced brand-new Mi-171, although it is certain it possesses the capability to assemble new Mi-171 with Russian-supplied parts.
Nowadays, armed Mi-171s were no longer to be seen in China, although in 2019 China had signed a deal with Russia to import Russian-made Mi-171Sh (along with more Mi-171A2). Mi-171Sh is an armoured and armed version of Mi-171, based on the Mi-8AMTSh assault transport. You can see its suggestion on the USSR helicopters forums.
Starting from 2020, older Mi-171 helicopters are in the process of being replaced by newer Z-20 helicopters. China still retains a fleet of newer Mi-171E/Mi-171Sh helicopters, but it is likely that China will now favour Z-20 over the original Mi-171 as a utility helicopter.
Among the years of history, China has operated Mi-17, Mi-17V-1, Mi-171, Mi-17V-5, Mi-171E and Mi-171Sh. This suggestion is exclusively about the Chinese Mi-171, but it is likely that China has every single variant of these helicopters armed. Moreover, the Chinese helicopter plant in Sichuan has likely converted many different Mi-17 variants into the Ulan-Ude Mi-171 standard for standardized maintenance.
Hardpoints: 6 (3 on left, 3 on right)
Weapons carried: 18x 57mm 57-1 rocket pod / 7x 70mm FS70 rocket pod / 7x 90mm 90-1 rocket pod
Country of Origin: Russia/China
Enter service: Mid-2000s (Armed Variant)
Crew: 2 pilots
Length: 25.35m (with rotors)/18.42m (without rotors)
Main rotor diameter: 21.29m
Tail rotor diameter: 3.9m
Empty weight: 7.055t
Takeoff weight: 13.011t
Maximal external load: 3.0t
Powerplant: 2x TV3-117VM (2070hp each)
Maximum speed: 250km/h
Cruising speed: 230km/h
Service ceiling: 5000m
Maximum range: 250km
Chinese Mi-171 also have the capability to carry ECM pods on its armed versions. It is
unknown whether this is the newer Mi-171Sh or mounted on the same modified version of original Mi-171. In theory, this ECM pod can jam and confuse Radar signals, making the helicopter more resilient against enemy radar installations, including enemy radar-assisted anti-aircraft batteries.
* Last pic is likely a Chinese Mi-17V-5, not Mi-171
- http://jczs.news.sina.com.cn/p/2006-10-24/0755406324.html (Chinese source - Chinese Mi-171 already used rockets since 2005. Likely mislabeled as Mi-17 since information about Mi-17 variants was pretty censored back then.)
- http://www.fbo.cn/feijidetails.aspx?id=136 (Chinese source) - Thanks to Thatz!
- 对台一线部队列装直升机载干扰吊舱 可压制地面防空|米171|吊舱_新浪军事_新浪网 (Chinese source)
- https://baike.baidu.hk/item/米-171直升機/3212302 (Chinese source)
- 中国再订购52架俄米171直升机 提升高原性能|米-171直升机_新浪军事 (Chinese source)
- https://www.airshow.com.cn/Item/11526.aspx (Chinese source)
- Military transport helicopter Mi-171Sh | Catalog Rosoboronexport (Mi-171Sh specs for reference)
- https://www.airforce-technology.com/news/newsrosobornexport-mi-171e-china (Source for Chinese Mi-171 history)
If you like to see more Mi-8 helicopters, check out the suggestion made by these two fellas!