Target Practice: Chinese Helicopter Tests Shooting Down Drones

This month, Chinese television broadcasted footage of a Mi-171 shooting an unmanned aerial vehicle with a short range TY-90 air … Continued

Mi 171 Fires TY-90 Missile

Footage from CCTV 7 channel shows a Mi 171 helicopter test firing a short ranged PL-90/TY-90 air to air missile at a target drone. The high profile expenditure of expensive drones and missiles in a live fire exercise shows China is arming its helicopter forces to the teeth.

Target Drone Smashed!

After a direct hit from the TY-90 missile, the target drone is blown to bits. Arming attack helicopters with air to air missiles will likely be a more common sight as helicopters will soon share the skies with enemy UAVs.

This month, Chinese television broadcasted footage of a Mi-171 shooting an unmanned aerial vehicle with a short range TY-90 air to air missile (AAM). The TY-90 has been designed to give Chinese helicopters anti-air capability against other helicopters, UAVs, cruise missiles and other slow moving aircraft. With a range of 6,000 meters at a speed of Mach 2, the TY-90 has 33% greater range than the U.S.’s AIM-92 helicopter AAM ( based on the FIM-92 Stinger missile). The TY-90 already arms Chinese attack and assault helicopters like the Z-10, Z-19 and Z-9.

Z-9 Fully Loaded Air to Air

Shown here is a light attack/utility Z-9 helicopter carrying a full load out of 8 TY-90/PL-90 air to air missiles, which would make it a good escort for helicopters on anti-tank and transport missions.

The Mil Mi-171 utility helicopter is one of the most common type in Chinese military inventory: China has bought between two to three hundred from Russia since the end of the Cold War. The Mi-171 can carry up to 37 passengers, making it the go to air transport for Chinese infantry operating in mountains, behind enemy lines and landing on large islands. In addition, Russia sold China license production of the Mi-171 in 2008; the Lantian Helicopter Company can produce up to 80 Mi-171s a year for civilian and military purchase. China has used several Mi-171s to test helicopter weapons like the HJ-10 antitank guided missile.

Mi 171 Test Bed

The Mi 171 has become the medium utility workhorse of the Chinese helicopter fleet, the Mi 171 here is testing out weapons and sensors for the Z-10 attack helicopter. The white sensor bulbs on the helicopter’s nose house infrared, optical imaging sensors and laser targeting equipment, while its wingtip rails carry anti-tank missiles on the upper row, and TY-90 AAMs on the lower row.

In the future, the TY-90 missile may not just be used to shoot down drones, but also to arm them. In this, it could follow its western counterparts in being used to arm Chinese UAVs like the Pterodactyl if and when interest in air defense drones grows.

You may also be interested in:

Chinese Drones Soon Flying Over Saudi Arabia

Army Helicopter, Navy Ship