China plans to build more than 1,000 heavy strategic transport aircraft. In January, the China Daily reported that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force was preparing to develop a new fleet of stealth fighters and heavy transport aircraft. The latter, the Xian Y-20 transport, was in particularly high demand, given Beijing’s lack of a “fast and reliable platform” to deliver arms and soldiers over long distances.
Heavy transport aircraft are critical to extend the operational range of China’s airforce. They can be used for mid-air refueling. It will also allow for rapid deployment of troops and tanks to different locations.
In terms of payload the Y-20 fits between a larger Boeing C-17 Globemaster III (77 t) and similar in size Russian Ilyushin Il-76 (50 t). It is worth noting that the Il-76 is in service with Chinese air force. However the Y-20 is also superior to the Il-76 in terms of aerodynamic arrangement and performance.
In Jan 2016, Chinese military recently released a video, showing that a Su-30 fighter jet was being refueled by an IL-78 air-refueling aircraft. The Y-20 is larger than the Antonov 70.
During a technology exhibition in Beijing this month, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) elaborated on these plans. “More than 1,000 Y-20s will be needed,” Zhu Qian, head of AVIC’s Large Aircraft Development Office told reporters, according to IHS Jane.
Analysts note that one thousand aircraft is a significant increase from earlier reports that suggested Beijing would acquire some 400. According to Zhu, the new estimate is “based on the experience of the United States and Russia.” The Y-20 weighs roughly 220 tons, has four turbofan engines, and can carry up to 66 tons of cargo. The aircraft has a range of about 3230 miles.
“This means it can reach everywhere in Europe and Asia, the US state of Alaska, Australia, and North Africa,” the People’s Daily reported. The aircraft’s heavy payload indicates that it could be used to transport tanks, including China’s 64-ton Type 99A2 main battle tank.
Beijing may have its sights set on an even larger transport aircraft, however. According to Zhu, China plans to build “300-tonne, 400-tonne and even 600-tonne aircraft.”
A plane of that size would rival Russia’s Ukranian Antonov An-225 Mriya, the largest aircraft in the world. Weighing over 700 tons, the Mriya has the largest wingspan of any plane in service and holds the world record for carrying a single item payload of 418,834 pounds.
The first Y-20 prototype is powered by four 12-ton thrust Soloviev D-30KP-2 engines. early production units are likely to be similarly powered. The Chinese intend to replace the D-30 with the 14-ton thrust WS-20, which is required for the Y-20 to achieve its maximum cargo capacity of 66 tons. The Shenyang WS-20 is derived from the core of the Shenyang WS-10A, an indigenous Chinese turbofan engine for fighter aircraft.
In 2013, Shenyang Engine Design and Research Institute was reportedly developing the SF-A, a 28700-pound thrust engine, for the Y-20 and the Comac C919. The SF-A is derived from the core of the WS-15. Compared to the WS-20, the SF-A is a conservative design that does not seek to match the technology of more modern engines. Note:WS-15, WS-20, SF-A does not yet exist till the end of 2015.
Y-20 General characteristics
Crew: 3: pilot, copilot and load master
Payload: 66 tonnes (145,505 lb)
Length: 47 m (154.2 ft)
Wingspan: 45 m ~ 50 m (147 ft ~ 164 ft)
Height: 15 m (49.2 ft)
Wing area: 330 m² (3337 ft²)
Empty weight: 100,000 kg (220,400 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 220,000 kg (485,000 lb)
Powerplant: 4 × turbofans
Cruise speed: Mach 0.75 (918 km/h)
Range: 4,500 km with max payload ; 7800 km with 40 tons ; 10,000+ km with paratroops.
Service ceiling: 13,000 m (42,700 ft)
Max. wing loading: 710 kg/m² (145 lb/ft²)
SOURCES- Wikipedia, Space Daily, IHS Janes, China Arms