To strengthen the anti-submarine capability of the People's Liberation Army Navy, Z-18F helicopters will likely serve on the Liaoning, the nation's first aircraft carrier, and the Type 071 Yuzhao-class amphibious transport docks, according to a report by the Hangzhou-based Qianjiang Evening News on Aug. 12.
The paper cited a Chinese military website which stated that the Z-18F is likely a modified version of the Z-8F helicopter designed based on the French-built SA 321 Super Frelon. From photos posted online, Chinese military expert Li Xiaojian told the paper that the Z-18F is probably equipped with four eight-tube sonobuoy launchers, allowing the helicopter to carry 32 sonobuoys. A US SH-60 Seahawk, in comparison, is only able to carry 25 sonobuoys, according to Li.
Li also stated that the Z-18F is likely able to carry four 324mm torpedos simultaneously with the two external stores support system it has. Most anti-submarine helicopters designed in Western nations such as the SH-60, the NH-90 and the Super Lynx are only able to carry two torpedoes. Li said, however, that Westland's EH-101 is a better and more advanced anti-submarine platform than the Z-18F.
As the Z-18F helicopter is bulky, weighing 13 tonnes, Li said that none of the destroyers or frigates the PLA Navy currently has in its possession are capable of carrying it, therefore, only large vessels like the Liaoning and the Type 071 amphibious transport dock can carry it.
Li said that there is also another version of the Z-18 helicopter called the Z-18J which is being designed as an early warning aircraft.