The Y-20 is a new Chinese transport aircraft. It is also referred as Kunpeng, a legendary bird from Chinese mythology. This aircraft was developed by Xian Aircraft Corporation (XAC) with Russian and Ukrainian assistance. Nevertheless it is the first heavy airlifter developed in China. Development commenced in the 1990s. In 2006 the program became a national priority. The Y-20 made its first flight in 2013. China became the forth country in the world, after United States, Russia and Ukraine, that developed a 200-ton military cargo jet. It is a milestone in China’s defense industry. Series production of the Y-20 began in 2015. This aircraft became operational with the Chinese air force in 2016. Some sources report, that as of 2016 a total of 8 aircraft were built. Most likely that a large number of these aircraft will be ordered. The new Y-20 might partially replace the older Y-8 transports (unlicensed copy of the Soviet An-12). It is possible that this aircraft will be proposed for export customers.
The Y-20 has a payload capacity of about 60-66 t. It can carry most large combat and support vehicles, including the Type 99 series tanks.
Previously only Russia, Ukraine and US were capable of developing and manufacturing heavy military cargo aircraft with such payload capacity. 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.
The Y-20 has sufficient range to reach most of the Europe, Africa, Australia and Alaska. It can be even seen as a strategic airlifter. Previously China lacked such heavy military transport capability.
Layout of the Y-20 is typical for a modern military heavy transport aircraft. It is powered by four Russian D-30KP2 turbofan engines. These were developed by Solovyev Design Bureau back in the 1960s. It has been reported that in the future indigenous WS-20 engines will be used. Wings for this transport were developed by Ukrainian Antonov Design Bureau. Also it shows some influence of the Boeing C-17 in the tail section and cargo compartment and influence of the Airbus A400M in the landing gear. Composite materials are widely used in the airframe to keep the weigh low.
Performance of the Y-20 is superior to that of the Il-76. This aircraft can land at small airports in mountainous areas.
This aircraft is operated by a crew of three, including two pilots and loadmaster.
By developing this airlifter China accumulated design capabilities, technologies and production capabilities. China devoting major resources to military transport development. It is likely that Chine will continue development of large and heavy transport aircraft.