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AVIC Y-20 heavy-lift transport nearing production?
October 17, 2017
Xian Y-20 prototype. Photo credit: China Ministry of Defence

AVIC Y-20 heavy-lift transport nearing production?

According to the China Daily, Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC)’s head, Zhu Qian, said that the AVIC Y-20 heavy-lift transport aircraft would be ready for delivery “very soon.”

Zhu Qian also claimed that China’s domestic needs warrant for a requirement of at least 1000 large aircraft such as the Y-20. He also confirmed that a domestic engine was under development for the Y-20.

In terms of exporting the Y-20, Zhu Qian alluded that work was underway to conceptualize an export-friendly variant of the Y-20:

“Putting it into the international market, the manufacturer must meet a variety of higher and tougher requirements in terms of environmental protection performance and airworthiness qualifications, not to mention unpredictable factors like shifts in international relations and intervention from other nations.”

Comment and Analysis

Based on Zhu Qian’s statements, it would seem that the AVIC Y-20 is on-track to being inducted and put into production in the short-term. Still, a specific date was not given, and it could still be at least two or three years away.

The confirmation of a domestic engine eventually replacing the Saturn DK-30KP is an important point. It was believed that the Shenyang WS-20 turbofan, which is currently under development, would eventually become the Y-20’s engine. The successful integration of this or another Chinese engine will boost the Y-20’s export potential, an issue that AVIC seems to be seriously studying.

We earlier theorized that the Y-20 would not only serve as a transport aircraft, but as a general platform for China’s military needs. For example, it could potentially become an in-flight refuelling tanker, and from the 2020s begin replacing the People Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF)’s HY-6Us, which are based on the Cold War-era Tu-16 jet bomber.

With China’s immense domestic requirement, the Y-20 benefits from scale, which will enhance its market potential, especially with countries currently using aging Ilyushin transports, such as the IL-76.

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