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Y-20 gives air power a push

By Zhao Lei | China Daily | Updated: 2013-01-28 02:38

The Y-20, with a crew of three, has a maximum payload of 66 metric tons and a maximum takeoff weight of more than 200 tons, China Youth Daily quoted military sources as saying. The high payload means the aircraft can fly the heaviest tank of the PLA — the 58-ton Type-99A2.

The length of the Y-20 is 47 meters and its wingspan is 50 meters, the report said.

An important addition

Sources said the aircraft began to be developed in the early 1990s. In 2006 it was listed in a national mid- and long-term technological development plan. In 2009, a senior executive at the Aviation Industry Corp of China told Chinese media the design of a "200-ton military aircraft" had been completed and production of prototypes had begun.

Photos of the Y-20 began to circulate on Chinese military websites on Dec 24, leading to speculation that the air freighter would soon conduct its first test flight.

Three days later, Yang Yujun, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, confirmed at a news conference that China is "developing a large transport aircraft on our own to improve the capability of air transport".

Once in service, the Y-20 will significantly strengthen the PLA’s long-range transport capability, which has been plagued for many years by the absence of a domestically developed strategic air freighter.

The PLA air force now has a transport fleet that mainly consists of the Y-7, the Y-8 and their variants.

The Y-7 is designed and made based on the Soviet-designed Antonov An-24 series, and the Y-8 is based on the Antonov An-12. Both have relatively light payloads and cannot carry heavy-duty armored vehicles and tanks.

There is also an unknown but presumably small number of Ilyushin Il-76 large air freighters in the air force, enabling the PLA to conduct strategic transport and disaster-relief missions.

In 2008, large transport aircraft from the PLA air force took part in rescue and relief missions after a devastating earthquake in Southwest China. Three years later, the air force also sent four Ilyushin Il-76s to strife-torn Libya to rescue stranded Chinese citizens.

Y-20 gives air power a push 
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