A news spokesman of the Ministry of National Defence (MND) of the People's Republic of China (PRC) confirmed at the regular press conference of the MND held on December 27, 2012 that "China is independently developing its large transport aircraft to strengthen the building of air transport capability".
Currently, the representative types of large transport aircraft are the U.S. Boeing C-17 Globemaster III and Russian Ilyushin Il-76, and only the U.S. and Russia in the world are able to develop large transport aircraft.
Named as the Y-20, China's first large military transport aircraft carries the dream and expectation of millions of Chinese people. Compared with the Il-76MD, the Y-20 has larger volume, more reasonable fuselage space and layout, and higher engine power.
The Y-20 not only outperforms Il-76 but also has Chinese characteristics in supercritical airfoils, integrated avionics, cabin equipment, composite materials and their processing.
The performance parameters of the Y-20 are quite close to those of Russian Il-476. Operated by three aircrew members, the Y-20 has the highest load-carrying capacity of 66 tons, a fuselage length of 47 meters, a wingspan of 45 meters and a height of 15 meters, and bears the maximum take-off weight of a little more than 200 tons. It has a traditional layout and strong adaptability to take-off and landing fields, as evidenced by being able to take off and land at airstrips and carry the vast majority of combat and support vehicles of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA).
As to the engine, China is actively developing high-thrust turbofan engines. Currently, the Y-20 can not be equipped with such advanced engines but be fit out with the imported D-30KP2 engine temporarily. The performance of the engine is not as good as that of the PS-90A76 turbofan engine of the Il-476, therefore, the thrust of China's Y-20 is much inferior to that of the Il-476.
However, the Y-20 will have significantly-improved flight performance after being equipped with China's independently-developed high-thrust turbofan engines, thus ranking among the world's advanced large transport aircraft.
Now, the Y-20 is in the phase of test and finalization. If everything goes well, the Y-20 will have to undergo a minimum-three-year-long flight test and a minimum-five-year-long comprehensive test. Therefore, 2017 is the earliest date by which the PLA Air Force will have home-made large transport aircraft.
By Zhang He and Li Wei respectively from the Command College of the Second Artillery Force (SAF) and the National Defense University (NDU) of the PLA
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