China's reported decision to present Pakistan three Z-10 attack helicopters as a "gift" this year has raised suspicions of ulterior motives, says Duowei News, a US-based Chinese political news outlet.
Citing unconfirmed Russian media reports, Duowei claims that although Pakistan had shown an interest purchasing the Z-10s, which are designed by Russia's Kamov Design Bureau under contract from Beijing, China decided to give the helicopters to its "closest friend" for free.
The Z-10s, designed primarily for anti-tank missions with secondary air-to-air capabilities, will reportedly be added to the Pakistan Army aviation fleet and be deployed in the ongoing fight against terrorism in the country. The helicopter is said to be capable of targeting the enemy in the air or on the ground with a range of 3-4 kilometers without appearing on radar.
Some military experts have cast doubt on the effectiveness of the Z-10 on counterterrorism operations, saying that its WZ-9 operation engine has relatively low power as well as a smaller payload and weaker defensive capabilities in comparison to other attack helicopters.
Even if the reports of the gift are true, Duowei said, the new Z-10 helicopters will only enhance Pakistan's position against India, which is about to pair its domestically produced light combat helicopters with newly imported AH-64 Apache attack helicopters manufactured by Boeing. Though there is still a sizable gap between the power systems of Z-10s and Apaches, the Chinese aircraft's body design and weapon system configurations are comparable to the world's most advanced attack helicopters, especially because of the excellent performance of its TY-90 air-to-air missiles.
For China, the "gift" to Pakistan could serve as a gift for the givers as well, as it might allow the PLA to see how the Z-10s perform in actual combat situations, providing valuable data for further research and development, Duowei said. China may have already been collecting information on its domestically produced weaponry acquired by Pakistan in recent years, including the MBT-3000 tank, the JF-17 Thunder combat aircraft and the F-22P general purpose frigate. The decision to make the Z-10s a gift instead of selling them could therefore stem from Pakistan's limited defense budget and China's relatively robust arms industry, Duowei added.