The Xi’an Y-20 “Chubby Girl,” a four-engine heavy transport airlifter, may have just entered formal service with the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) Air Force after Chinese papers revealed on Thursday the aircraft’s first airborne and air-delivery drill.
The aircraft made its maiden flight lasting one hour in early 2013.
Air force spokesman Shen Jinke hailed the maiden deployment in which a Y-20 conducted joint airdrop training with PLA paratroopers as a leap in the Chinese military’s strategic delivery and long-distance airborne combat abilities.
“The air force is a strategic service, and its strategic capability should be in line with the constantly expanding national interests so it can carry out diverse military missions, in particular in logistics, delivery and air security assurance,” Shen told a press conference.
The 200-ton freighters will be transferred to some high-altitude aerodrome in western China for further training, including long-range deliveries and airdrops.
Global Times also reported that such combat and delivery drills, including the delivery of paratroopers and military vehicles, required the Y-20 to be extremely stable while airborne.
The Y-20 is rumored to have a payload of 66 tons thanks to its bulging fuselage, and its shortest takeoff distance is 600 to 700 meters on the strength of four 12-ton-thrust Soviet-era Soloviev D-30KP-2 engines, with a full-payload range of 4,500 kilometers at Mach 0.75, making it a versatile airlifter for transporting materiel and troops over long distances in diverse weather conditions.
China’s indigenous 14-ton-thrust WS-20 engines, currently under development, will replace the Russian turbofans to propel the Y-20.
Still, certain parts of the wing such as the triple-slotted trailing-edge flaps were developed by the Ukrainian Antonov Design Bureau.
In June 2016, Jane’s reported that up to 1,000 Y-20s were being requested by the Chinese military.
On July 6, 2016, the first Y-20 was handed over by the Chinese manufacturer to the PLAAF in a ceremony. The second aircraft followed soon after and was assigned to the 12th Regiment of the 4th Transport Division at Qionglai, Chengdu, in southwestern China’s Sichuan province.
Commercial satellite imagery captured at the end of 2017 suggests that at least three Y-20s have been delivered and lined up at the base in Qionglai.
Also, a mysterious new model of jet appeared in a nine-second video released by the state-owned industrial-military conglomerate Aviation Industry Corp on Tuesday to commemorate the 60th anniversary of its subsidiary Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corp.
Judging from its silhouette, the new warplane could be the long-rumored H-20 stealth bomber, believed to be designed to take on the US B-2 heavy-penetration strategic bomber.