China’s PLA has finally started flying the Z19, manufactured by Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation, according to an unconfirmed report. The last word on this aircraft dates back to late 2010, when a prototype crashed during test flight.

A licensed version of the Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin, it’s a close cousin to the chopper used by the United States Coast Guard since 1979 for air-sea rescue operations.

The military version of the medium-weight multi-purpose twin-engine helicopter, either built under license or purchased outright, is used by combat heavies such as the Brazilian Army, Mexican Navy and Sri Lankan Air Force.

No word on PLA armament as tricked out by HAMC, but other forces use the helo for a wide range of roles including armed assault, fire support, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and medical evacuation.

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Ray Kwong is senior advisor to the USC US-China Institute, a charter member of the Asian International Business Advisory Group, a Forbes contributing writer and columnist for the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He is currently facilitating talks between China and U.S. interests on such matters as clean energy economics, nanotechnology and commercial aerospace. While it sounds way cooler than it really is, he is also a member of the Bloomberg BusinessWeek Market Advisory Board and the McKinsey Quarterly Executive Panel. You can follow him on Twitter @raykwong. Eyeball Ray's posts from Forbes ChinaTalk.
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