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.
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.
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.
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