CHINA - China is developing helicopters with the ability to fly at speeds twice the current average, according the country's major aircraft maker.
Lin Zuoming, chairman of Aviation Industry Corp of China, said the company is developing new-generation helicopters that can travel up to 500 kilometers an hour.
"We have been keeping pace with other countries in the research and development of ultrafast helicopters," he added.
Lin was speaking after models of several new-concept helicopters were presented at the Second China Helicopter Expo, which concluded in Tianjin on Sunday. His company produces a wide range of helicopters, from ultra-light models to heavy-lift helicopters.
The Blue Whale tilt rotor aircraft being developed by AVIC's Helicopter Research and Development Institute will have a maximum takeoff weight of 60 tons and a payload of up to 30 tons, an engineer at the institute told People's Daily.
He said the Blue Whale will be able to reach speeds of up to 700 km/h.
The aircraft will be able to perform vertical takeoffs and landings in areas with complex geographical conditions and conduct disaster relief supply airdrops and other heavy-lift duties.
It also can serve a wide range of military purposes such as battlefield reconnaissance, patrols and air-to-ground strikes.
The Jueying-8, an unmanned, high-speed helicopter with coaxial rotors, was also featured at the expo. The aircraft, with much of its airframe made of composite materials, was designed to test the feasibility of ultra-fast helicopters.
A prototype of the Jueying-8 is expected to make its maiden test flight in 2015, and designers hope it will achieve a maximum speed of 400 km an hour.
Russia and France have also begun to develop ultrafast helicopters.
Russian Helicopters, the leading Russian designer and manufacturer of helicopters, announced in May that it is cooperating with industry and defence authorities in Russia on the development of a high-speed helicopter, which is expected to perform its first test flight before 2020.
Meanwhile, the Eurocopter X3, an experimental high-speed compound helicopter being developed by the European helicopter giant, has been reported to be the fastest helicopter in the world, after reaching a top speed of 472 km/h during several test flights in June.
Ultrafast helicopters like the Eurocopter X3 will be able to conduct search-and-rescue missions, border patrols, passenger transport and a host of other military operations, China Aviation News reported.
Fang Yonghong, director of unmanned helicopters with the Helicopter Research and Development Institute, said China has cracked core technologies in key areas such as rotors, flight control and avionics, and developed a wide variety of unmanned helicopters.
In addition to high-speed helicopters, the institute is also developing an all-electric helicopter, Fang said.
"Seeing that AVIC has the confidence to display those advanced, new-concept helicopters at the expo, we can conclude that China has authentically achieved substantial progress in helicopter research and development," said Wu Peixin, an editor at Aerospace Knowledge magazine.
"The appearance of these helicopters indicates Chinese designers and technicians have accumulated profound experience in composite material and engine research."
After the unmanned prototype of Jueying-8 passes tests, it's highly possible that designers will develop manned variations of the aircraft, Wu said.