China: Mainland military analysts claim that deploying China's new Black Hawk helicopter to a PLA outpost in Hong Kong was a wise decision given the city's terrain and mission.
Chinese social media platform Weibo posted pictures of Z-20 helicopters flying over Pat Heung, where the garrison's airfield is located, indicating that the newly upgraded helicopter has started operations in Hong Kong.
According to former PLA instructor Song Zhongping, the Z-20s would complement the smaller Z-9 and Z-10 aircraft already stationed in the garrison, but would serve a different purpose.
The Z-20 can carry 10 tons, making it a suitable size for use by the military and police, among other things, in counter-terrorism, disaster relief, anti-submarine, early warning and transport operations.
A multi-role aircraft like the Z-20 is what Hong Kong needs to help the garrison and local police deal with wildfires and other emergencies.
He explained that if necessary, this would enable the Air Force of the People's Liberation Army garrison to cooperate with the city's government flying service.
Song claimed that the Z-9, which can only carry 4 tons, could not fly as long as the Z-20.
The Z-10 was "too powerful and fierce", according to Macau-based military analyst Antony Wong Tong, and did not meet the city's needs.
Although Z-10s were only deployed in June, Z-9s have been deployed to the garrison since the 1997 handover.
Harbin Aircraft Industry Group, a subsidiary of Avic, created the Z-20, which entered service in 2019.
It was advertised as China's replacement for Russia-built Ka-28s and the nearly four-decade-old Black Hawks, which are used to provide air support for warships.
Black Hawks were used by the Government Flying Service from its inception in 1993 until being completely abolished last year.
As per earlier reports, the Z-20 was sent to the Himalayas in March for training and weapon testing related to high altitude and extreme weather conditions. Three months later, on a flood relief mission in Henan province, three helicopters were sighted for the first time.
According to a PAP social media post, the Z-20 was assigned to the paramilitary People's Armed Police in March to assist the larger Z-8G transport helicopter in counter-terrorism, disaster relief and emergency rescue operations.
There are different versions available depending on whether the Z-20 is used by the Army, Air Force or Navy.
The Z-20K version that has been sent to Hong Kong raises concerns about whether Navy personnel stationed there will have access to the Z-20H ship-propelled helicopter.
That's unlikely, according to Zhou Chenming, a researcher at the Yuan Wang Military Science and Technology think tank in Beijing.
According to Zhou, the garrisons based in Hong Kong and Macau intended to combine ground, air and naval forces, as opposed to the fighting forces on the mainland.
“Hong Kong is a small city with very little space for airplanes to fly. There is no need to send any additional Z-20 versions as the Z-20K has already been tested with naval and ground forces.