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.
Zhuhai Airshow: China’s Y-20 military transport aircraft performs
China’s Y-20 military transport aircraft performs at the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, south China’s Guangdong Province, Nov. 11, 2014.
Y-20 airlifter: Details