China’s first indigenously-developed heavy military transport aircraft, Y-20, was built by Xi’an Aircraft Industry (Group), a part of Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). It is also the biggest domestic strategic airlifter ever built in China.
The aircraft can be deployed in the transportation of personnel and heavy equipment during military assault, and humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping missions. It can also be configured for airborne early warning and control (AEW&C), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and aerial refuelling missions.
“The first Xian Y-20 prototype successfully made its first flight at Shaanxi Yanliang Aviation Base in January 2013.”
Y-20 gives air power a push: Here
The successful maiden flight of the Y-20, China’s first domestically developed heavy air freighter, marks a step in the country’s goal of building a strategic air power, according to military experts and observers.
“A genuine strategic air power must possess a strong power projection capability, which is highly reliant on large aircraft, namely a strategic air freighter and a strategic bomber,” Wang Yanan, deputy editor-in-chief at Aerospace Knowledge magazine and a military analyst, said.
The first Xian Y-20 prototype successfully made its first flight at Shaanxi Yanliang Aviation Base in January 2013. The second prototype took into skies in December 2013. The aircraft was displayed at China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition 2014 (Airshow China) held in Zhuhai.
The first aircraft entered service in July 2016, while the PLAAF needs 400 Y-20 transport aircraft.
PLAAF reportedly receives first Y-20 airlifter
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has reportedly received the first of more than 1,000 Xian Aircraft Corporation (XAC) Y-20 heavy strategic transport aircraft.
Chinese social media reported the delivery of aircraft 11051 and 11052 to Chengdu-Qionglai Air Base on 15 June, though there has been no official confirmation.
News of the apparent delivery comes on the back of the maiden flight of the fifth prototype aircraft earlier this year, and a report by former Chinese test pilot Xu Yongling in January that the Y-20 had completed its developmental testing at the end of 2015.
Just days prior to the arrival of the first two aircraft at Chengdu-Qionglai Air Base, Chinese state media reported that the PLAAF needs more than 1,000 Y-20s to satisfy its strategic airlift needs (an increase on a 2014 stated requirement for up to 400).
While official specifications have not been disclosed, national media has attributed the four-turbofan Y-20 a payload of 66 tonnes, or 51 tonnes over 5,200 km. The Y-20 does not appear to have an aerial refuelling capability.
Russian and Ukrainian Antonov engineers are known to have served as design consultants on the Y-20, giving it a similar external appearance to the Antonov An-70 (minus the turboprops) which was co-developed by the erstwhile allies. The platform is also similar in appearance to the US-design Boeing C-17 Globemaster III. This could be down to industrial espionage, or it could just be that, when trying to achieve similar results using similar technologies, the Chinese came up with a similar looking solution. Source janes.com
Xian Y-20 development
The Y-20 project is part of an initiative to build China’s large transportation aircraft under the Medium-and Long-Term National Science and Technology Development Programme 2006-2020 (MLP).
Two major Chinese aviation companies, Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation and Xi’an Aircraft Corporation, expressed interest to develop the Y-20 aircraft, but Xi’an was announced as the manufacturer of Y-20 in 2007.
The 001 prototype (S/N 781) later wears a dark blue color scheme after being transferred to CFTE. The third prototype (S/N 783) made its maiden flight on December 16, 2013 and has been undergoing various tests at different locations. Additional prototypes were built and flew in 2015 including 785 and 788. The last prototype (789) flew for the first time on February 6, 2016. The last prototype (789) flew for the first time on February 6, 2016. It was reported in September 2015 that a pulse assembly line has been established at XAC and was ready for production. The R&D of Y-20A was reportedly completed by the end of 2015. The first two Y-20A (S/N 11051 & 11052) were handed over to PLAAF at XAC on June 15, 2016. They were formally inducted to PLAAF on July 6, 2016. They were expected to be followed by 2 more (11053 & 11054) by the end of 2016. Currently more Y-20As are being constructed at XAC. The latest image (August 2017) indicated at least 5 Y-20As are in service with PLAAF. Source chinese-military-aviation.blogspot.com
Design and features of Y-20 heavy airlifter
The aircraft features deep and wide fuselage for cargo section and T-tail empennage configuration with high-mounted horizontal surfaces on the vertical stabiliser. The centre fuselage is hinged with moderately sweptback, high-mounted monoplane wings integrating triple-slotted trailing-edge flaps. A pair of engine nacelle is fitted under each wing.
The Y-20 airlifter has a glass cockpit, which accommodates three crew members. It features a rear cargo-loading assembly allowing the loading / unloading of large-sized cargo and equipment.
The aircraft measures 44m to 47m in length and 18m-high, and has a wingspan of 50m. The maximum take-off weight of the aircraft is approximately 220t and the maximum payload carrying capacity is 66t.
China needs ‘more than 1,000’ Xian Y-20 transport aircraft
During a 1-7 June technology innovation exhibition in Beijing, an official from the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) told the People’s Dailynewspaper that China required “more than 1,000” Xian Aircraft Corporation (XAC) Y-20 heavy strategic transport aircraft and that the country also plans to build transport aircraft comparable in size to that of the Antonov An-225 Mriya.
“More than 1,000 Y-20s will be needed,” Zhu Qian, head of AVIC’s Large Aircraft Development Office, told reporters, referring to the 200-tonne, 50- to 60-tonne cargo capacity, four turbofan-powered transport aircraft that first flew in January 2013.
While Zhu stated that this estimate “was based on the experience of the United States and Russia”, he did not provide any further details. In 2014 the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) National Defence University issued a report stating that China might require up to 400 Y-20 transport aircraft.
The People’s Daily also quoted a technical evaluation by China’s Aerospace Knowledge magazine as saying that the Y-20 can fly 5,200 km with a payload of 51 tonnes when fully fuelled. “This means it can reach everywhere in Europe and Asia, the US state of Alaska, Australia, and North Africa,” the paper said, adding that the aircraft has a maximum payload of 66 tonnes and a maximum take-off weight of more than 200 tonnes, according to military sources. The high payload means it can carry the PLA’s heaviest tank, the 58-tonne Type 99A2 main battle tank.
Zhu told the newspaper that China also plans to build “300-tonne, 400-tonne, and even 600-tonne aircraft”. In this context a 600-tonne aircraft would approach the size of the Antonov An-225 Mriya and the Airbus A380. Source janes.com
Strategic Airlift and Tactical Options
The large scale production of the Y-20 is a significant achievement of China’s state owned aviation industry, and forecasts China’s growing desire for a robust strategic airlift capability. Not only can the Y-20 transport a large amount of cargo or troops over a great distance, but it can even transport main battle tanks and other armored vehicles. With a maximum payload weight of 73 short tons, the Y-20 can transport the PLA’s most modern Type 99A or Type 96 MBTs, and any IFVs and APCs now in service. The aircraft has a maximum range exceeding 10,000 km (6,200 miles), and can carry a reduced payload of 40 short tons a range of 7,800 km. (4,850 miles). Range with the maximum payload of 73 short tons is approximately 4,500 km. (2,800 miles).
Very similar in design, dimensions and appearance to the Boeing C-17 Globemaster and Ilyushin IL-76, the Y-20 was built to fill the roles of strategic airlift, paratroop transport, and heavy airdrop missions. It is slightly larger than the IL-76, yet smaller that a C-17. With the C-17 no longer being produced by Boeing, having halted production in 2015, the Y-20 is now the largest military transport aircraft currently in production.
As China makes a concerted effort to secure its strategic interests both close to home, and as far away as the Horn of Africa, a viable strategic airlift capability is seen as essential. With a reported short takeoff ability of 700 meters (435 feet), the Y-20 can supply troops and supplies to any of China’s island outposts in the South China Sea that have an airstrip, such as Woody Island, Fiery Cross Reef, Mischief Reef or Subi Reef. Any military operations in response to territorial incursions on the part of other claimants to disputed territories in the region that required invading and occupying land would greatly depend on sufficient strategic airlift support. With tensions between China and the Philippines significantly lessened with the new Duterte administration, and cordial relations with Malaysia and Brunei, the likelihood of such a scenario has greatly reduced since last summer.
The aircraft can also greatly aid the PLA in maintaining the new military base at Doraleh, Djibouti. The new military base is located just eight miles from Camp Lemonnier, the largest U.S. military facility on the continent of Africa, and will serve as a logistics base capable of supporting Chinese maritime interests in the Indian Ocean, The Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. The Japanese Self Defense Forces also operate a small logistics support center adjacent to Camp Lemonnier, and will apparently be expanding this facility in response the Chinese project.
The question of Taiwan, and any future attempt to retake it by force of arms, would require a massive amphibious and airlift commitment. China lacks both at present, but as Southfront has diligently documented recently, the PLA and PLAN have greatly expanded and modernized their amphibious warfare capabilities. Any invasion of Taiwan would require not only a sizeable amphibious armada, but a substantial strategic airlift effort. The acquisition of up to a thousand Y-20s goes a long way towards building the nucleus of such a force. Source southfront.org
Other features include a four-crew glass cockpit with two HUDs and five large MFDs. A small FLIR (Enhanced Vision System/EVS) is installed below the forward windshield to assist taking off and landing under poor weather conditions.
A dorsal SATCOM antenna is also seen behind the wings. The aircraft also features an FBW system. Overall Y-20A appears fatter and shorter than Il-76MD, bearing some resemblance to Japanese C-2 and Ukrainian An-70 transport. This suggests that its cargo bay dimension is a wider and taller, making it more versatile by being able to to carry a variety of oversize load, including ZBD-03 AFVs (at least 3) and one ZTZ99 MBT.
In addition a stretched variant is thought to be under development with a larger cargo space. The prototypes and the initial batch are powered by Russian D-30KP-2/WS-18 turbofan, later by the modified WS-10 (WS-20 Huanghe?) high-bypass turbofan (as Y-20B?). A static test airframe was seen in December 2016 featuring modified engine pylons. Y-20A is also expected to be converted into a tanker replacing the obsolete H-6U. It will also serve as the platform of the next generation AWACS (KJ-3000?) replacing KJ-2000. It was also rumored that the aircraft might serve as the testbed for the Chinese airborne laser weapon prototype similar to American YAL-1. Source chinese-military-aviation.blogspot.com
KJ-3000, next generation of early warning aircraft picture
KJ-3000, next generation of early warning aircraft is most likely to adopt antenna and fuselage integrated patch radar.
The idea of using KJ-3000 patch type radar, chassis nature is shipped on Y-20 large transport aircraft.(source: flying, Lu small) Source errymath.blogspot.com
‘Chubby Girl’s’ sister to boost China’s military capability
A refueling version of the Y-20 cargo plane will extend the reach of PLAAF aircraft and pierce the Pacific’s Second Island Chain to threaten US allies
China is looking to increase its air tanker fleet after its fighter jets, bombers and surveillance aircraft conducted an “island encirclement patrol” of Taiwan earlier this week.
As the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) extends exercises in the Western Pacific, refueling will become a problem for its strike aircraft.
The People’s Daily has already confirmed that the PLA’s Northern Theater Command will organize war-games to prepare pilots for more aerial refueling missions. But to do this, China will need to increase its air tanker fleet.
Yin Zhuo, a PLA Rear Admiral-turned military commentator, told the state broadcaster CCTV that a squadron of H-6K Badger bombers were capable of piercing the Second Island Chain after aerial refueling.
He was referring to the strategic containment line in the Pacific, which runs along the Ogasawara Islands and Volcano Islands of Japan, as well as the Mariana Islands, a United States territory.
Yin’s comments triggered speculation that the air tanker fleet could get an enhanced version of the new Y-20, which was brought into service as a cargo plane in 2013, and is known as “Chubby Girl”.
Reworked as a refueling workforce, it would take over from the 12 1950s-era H-6U tankers, which are too small to support long-distance air combat.
“Assuming air superiority within the first island chain and farther east of Taiwan, the combination of Y-20 aerial refueling and the H-6K bombers’ long-range missiles, puts the United States and partner forces operating outside the Second Island Chain, such as Alaska and Hawaii, at risk,” The National Interest magazine, which covers international affairs, reported, citing David Barr, a career intelligence officer with the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet.
Developed by the state-owned Aviation Industry Corp of China, the Y-20 has a bulky fuselage, hence the “Chubby Girl” nickname, a shoulder wing and heavy-duty retractable landing gear,
The aircraft’s maximum takeoff weight is 242 tons and has four D-30KP-2 engines. The tanker version being developed would carry 110 tons of fuel, enough to refuel 20 J-10 fighters, according to Yin.
In addition, the PLAAF has been conducting exercises with its upgraded H-6K bomber, including aerial refueling. Source atimes.com
Boeing C-17 Globemaster: Details
Ilyushin IL-76MD-90A: Details
Antonov’s participation in the development of the Y-20?: Here
On the forum ” forcesdz “, a member raised the question of the Xian Aircraft Corporation Y-20 Kunpeng as a “Chinese design” heavy military transport aircraft : it reproduced a number of documents published on a Russian forum that apparently concern a device quite similar to the Chinese plane.
I think it is useful to recall the stages of relations between Antonov and certain Chinese manufacturers and / or decision makers, which have never ceased since 1959 when Ukrainian specialists from OKB-153 (Antonov) help the Chinese to launch the production of the An-2 under Soviet license. But in this article will be considered only the relations since 2000 regarding the development of transport aircraft including a heavy transport aircraft , whose acronym has been HTA (Heavy Transport Aircraft) .
The perspective of the characteristics of the aircraft mentioned in the document of Antonov, the Tяжелого Tранспортного Cамолета (literally Heavy Transport Aircraft) shows the state of progress of the joint work of the Chinese and Ukrainian teams:
Antonov An-70: Details
Production of China’s New Airlifter Confirmed
China has confirmed series production of the Xian Y-20 “Kunpeng” strategic airlifter and a re-engining with domestically produced turbofans. Chinese state television announced the news at the same time as the go-ahead for production of the Y-20 stealth fighter was revealed.
Speaking to the Chinese media on the sidelines of the recent Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Y-20 design chief Tang Chang Hong said that after eight months of operational trials, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is pleased with the airlifter. Tang revealed that a timetable is in place to install domestic engines for the Y-20 by next year or 2019. Currently the aircraft is powered by four Russian Soloviev D-30KP2 turbofans, producing 10.5 tonnes of thrust.
Chinese-made Shenyang-Liming WS-20 engines will produce 14 metric tons (30,864 lbs) of thrust, and thereby enable the Y-20 to achieve its maximum payload of 66 metric tons (146 lbs). Touted as China’s most powerful engine, the WS-20 has been flight-tested on an IL-76 testbed since 2014.
China Aviation News reported in 2016 that Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation has the capacity to produce more than 20 Y-20 annually. However, the production line is not meeting its full potential this year due to the limited number of D-30 deliveries and the uncertainty of the WS-20 re-engining program.
“The successful development of the Y-20 is a testament to Chinese industry’s ability to produce large scale, high-end equipment and the mastery of technology by the Chinese scientist and researchers.” Tang said. “The Y-20 is a good starting point and will enable us to produce larger and more ‘important’ aircraft projects.” He also noted that a civilian variant of the Y-20 will be developed.
The Chinese media revealed in early March that the Y-20 could be used as a carrier for China’s air-launched rocket system. The head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, Li Tong Yu, said his agency has developed a new generation of air-launched space vehicle capable of delivering 100 kg (220 lbs) of payload into low-orbit. The Y-20 will be used to air-launch the rocket. A variant with a payload up to 200 kg (440 lbs) is under development.
Li highlighted that China in recent years has been developing numerous small satellites. Deploying them via conventional rockets would be costly, and the Y-20 will aim to solve that problem. Source ainonline.com
Engines and performance
The power plant of the Y-20 prototypes integrates four D-30KP-2 turbofan engines, whereas the production aircraft is equipped with WS-20 engines. WS-20 is the most powerful aircraft engine developed by China.
The engine develops a power output of 14t and offers a higher bypass ratio for fuel efficiency. It will replace the less powerful and less efficient Russian D-30KP, which generates 10.5t of thrust. The WS-20 turbofan underwent trail on Il-76 test aircraft during 2014-2015. The aerial testing was concluded in 2015, paving the way for service entry on Y-20 aircraft.
The Y-20 aircraft can perform missions in adverse weather conditions and can also land at small airports in mountainous regions.
D-30KP-2 turbofan engines
D-30КU/КP – family of the turbofan engines for commercial and cargo / transport aircraft.
• 3 stages low pressure compressor
• 11 stages high pressure compressor
• cannular combustor (12 flame tubes)
• 2 stages high pressure turbine
• 4 stages low pressure turbine
• D-30KP and D-30KP-2 for Ilyushin-76/78 cargo / transport aircraft family
• D-30KU and D-30KU-2 for Ilyushin-62M long- / middle-range commercial jets
• D-30KU-154 for Tupolev-154M middle-range commercial jets
|Thrust at APR*, kgf||–||–||–|
|Take-off thrust, kgf||10 500||11 000||12 000|
|Specific fuel consumption at take-off, kg/(kgf∙hr)||0.498||0.498||0.510|
|Specific fuel consumption at cruise, kg/(kgf∙hr)**||0.715||0.685||0.705|
|Dimensions (L x D), m||5.698 x 1.560||5.698 x 1.560||5.448 x 1.560|
* – automatic power reserve
** – (H=11 000 m, M=0.8)
With a power output of 14 tons, the WS-20 will replace the less powerful and less efficient Russian D-30KP, which has only 10.5 tons of thrust. The WS-20 turbofan has been flying on this Il-76 test aircraft since 2014, and it’s likely that aerial testing will wrap up in late 2015.
China has made progress in replacing foreign engines for its fighter programs, but it still relies on the D-30KP turbofan to power subsonic aircraft such as the Y-20 heavy transport and H-6K bomber. The WS-20 is believed to derive its engine core from the WS-10A turbofan engine, which powers the Shenyang J-11B and J-16 strike fighters.
The WS-20 entering into Chinese service would provide performance boosts to the Y-20, increasing its payload to 66 tons from the prototype’s 50 tons. That would give China the ability to fly heavy battle tanks and missile launchers across the Asian continent, as well as a larger Y-20-based aerial tanker. The WS-20 could also be a domestic powerplant for military derivatives of the C919 jetliner, which would be used for airborne warning and control, and anti-submarine missions. Source popsci.com
The aircraft is equipped with a retractable landing gear comprising two main landing gear units and a nose unit. Each of the two main units on either side of under-fuselage features six wheels, which are arranged in a two-two-two layout from front-to back.
The steerable nose gear includes a standard twin-wheel leg unit. The landing gear allows take-offs and landings on rough airfields or unpaved runways.
|National origin||People Republic of China|
|Manufacturer||Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation|
|First flight||26 January 2013|
|Introduction||26 December 2015|
|Crew||3: pilot, copilot & load master|
|Wing area||330 m²|
|Empty weight||100,000 kg|
|Max. takeoff weight||220,000 kg|
|Powerplant||4 × turbofans|
|Cruise speed||Mach 0.75|
|Range||4,500 km with max payload ; 7800 km with 40 tons ; 10,000+ km with paratroops.|
|Service ceiling||13,000 m|
|Max. wing loading||710 kg/m²|
Main material source airforce-technology.com
Revised Nov 05, 2017
Updated Oct 22, 2019