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China Military Transformation ep1: Upgrades for PLA ground force choppers

Reporter: Tang Bo 丨 CCTV.com

10-01-2016 14:33 BJT

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China started reforming its People's Liberation Army a year ago. The ground unit is undergoing a transformation, with the help of some test pilots. CCTV’s Tang Bo met with the Army’s only helicopter test flight team to find out how the change is happening.

15 years of flying have made Zhang Yunlei one of the best test pilots in China’s ground forces. He will never have to fight in any military operations, but that doesn’t mean his job is easy.

"Test pilots serve for scientific research rather than combats. We bare more risks that ordinary pilots as we fly aircraft with an unfinished design. So being a test pilot requires a strong heart, or you will give up easily," said Zhang Yunlei, test pilot, Chinese Army.

Zhang Yunlei is one of the 32 helicopter test pilots of the PLA's ground force. Most of them have gone through life-threatening situations.

In 2007, an armed helicopter Zhang was flying lost its tail rotor power on a height of 23-hundred meters.

Zhang managed to land in a rice field in just 80 seconds.

The helicopter was intact, and the crew safe.

"If I didn’t handle the emergency well, the aircraft would have broken up in pieces while in the air, and all the test data would have gone too, and of course, I would die. If that happened, the armed helicopter project might have been delayed or even canceled," Zhang said.

The ground force’s test flight team in which ZhangYunlei serves was established in 2001.

It conducts scientific tests, and design typing test flights on ground force helicopters.

In the past 15 years, the team has completed the test flight missions on more than 20 new types of homemade military helicopters. They put into service hundreds of aircraft with new designs.

Compared to other units of the Chinese military, the test flight team is pretty small. Everyday, they make sure the helicopters here are safe, an essential but really dangerous task. But that’s just one of the new challenges the team is facing, as the military is undergoing reforms.

The PLA is trying to make some changes in its ground forces, by making its armed helicopter units strike while mid-air.

The team, being the weaponry tester, is therefore sitting on
the cusp of change.

"We used to only conduct test flights on transport or training helicopters. But now we are also testing armed helicopters, and some flying devices that the ground forces urgently need," said Chen Fenghua, political commissar, Army Aviation Test Flight Team.

"At the same time, we provide the forces with their performance index. So we are doing all we can to help them make the change.”

Back in the hangar, Zhang Yunlei is checking the helicopter for its next take-off

Every single test flight is unpredictable, and each one could be his last.

But Zhang is determined, as he is taking a greater responsibility of helping the army fly with well tested weaponry.




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