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Wednesday, July 6, 2016, 16:19

Large freighter plane enters military service

By Zhao Lei In Chengdu
Large freighter plane enters military service
The Y-20, China's first domestically made jumbo air freighter, held a successful test flight on Saturday. (Chen Xiao / Xinhua)
Large freighter plane enters military service

The Y-20, China's domestically developed heavy-lift transport plane, officially joined the People's Liberation Army Air Force on Wednesday.

Xu Qiliang, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, and General Ma Xiaotian, the Air Force's commander, attended a ceremony in Sichuan province marking the occasion, an Air Force statement announced.

The first user of the colossal jet is an Air Force unit in the PLA's Western Theater Command, according to the statement. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 220 metric tons and is able to transport cargo and personnel over long distances in diverse weather conditions.

"Taking the Y-20 into service marks a crucial step in the Air Force's effort to improve our ability to project strategic power," said Senior Colonel Shen Jinke, spokesman for the Air Force.

The development of the Y-20 started in 2007 at Aviation Industry Corp of China. The aircraft made its maiden flight in January 2013, and it flew at the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in November 2014.

Tang Changhong, the Y-20's chief designer, said the jet has good maneuverability, an outstanding aerodynamic design, a high level of automation and a strong payload capacity.

The Y-20 will hugely improve China's ability to safeguard its overseas interests and protect Chinese living abroad, said Fu Qianshao, a PLA Air Force expert on aircraft.

"The long operational range and strong payload capacity make the Y-20 an ideal aircraft for strategic projection and overseas evacuation," he said. "To safeguard our overseas interests, we need a powerful transport aircraft like the Y-20 that can operate from any terrain and rapidly deploy or evacuate our people."

Fu predicted that the supersize jet will be developed into a large family of early warning and aerial refueling aircraft.

He added that it will not take long for PLA air crews to familiarize themselves with the new jet because they have had experience with transport planes and the aircraft's good automation capability will reduce the crews' work.

Wang Ya'nan, editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said the biggest advantage of the Y-20 is that it was "tailor-made" to meet the PLA's requirements.

Responding to AVIC officials' earlier statement that China will develop new transport planes larger than the Y-20, Wang said larger aircraft - like Russia's Antonov An-124 Ruslan and the United States' Lockheed C-5 Galaxy - are useful to ferry enormous pieces of equipment, but the Y-20 will remain the backbone of the China's military transport aircraft.

"The plane can fly more than 5,000 km in eight hours, so it can fulfill most of the PLA's transport needs," he said.

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