Y-20 / Y-XX / Grand Canal ? / C919 Military Variant
Xinhua reported 28 December 2012 that China is developing Y-20 large transport aircraft to meet its military modernization drive, a Ministry of Defense spokesman said 27 December 2012. "We are developing large transport aircraft on our own to improve the capability of air transport," spokesman Yang Yujun said at a monthly news briefing held days after photos of a Y-20 appeared online. "The advanced long-range carrier is being developed to serve the military modernization drive, as well as to meet demands in disaster relief work and humanitarian aid in emergency situations, he added. The spokesman did not say when the Y-20s will be fitted out in force, only saying "the research and development of the large transport aircraft is going forward as planned." There will be a series of steps before the carriers are fitted out, "as the technology is complicated," he added.
Preliminary estimates suggest that the Y-20 has about the same range - about 4,500 kilometers or 2,000 miles - as the the medium size medium range Y-8 transport aircraft [each aircraft would thus have an operational radius of about 1,000 miles]. The Y-8 is a version of the Russian Antonov An-12 built produced by Shanxi Aircraft Company in China [the Chinese and Russian counterpart to the American C-130]. The Y-20 is assessed to have about three times the payload of the Y-8 - 60 tons versus 40 tons, and the turbojet powered Y-20 is estimated to be somewhat faster than the turboprop powered Y-8, with a maximum speed of 750-800 km/hr versus 660 km/hour.
The most noteworthy advance of the Y-20 over the Y-8 is not seen in the initial public photographs, but it quite striking in the artwork that surfaced at the same time. Four of the five artist concepts of the Y-20 feature a dorsal refueling probe above the cockpit. Aerial refueling could substantially extend the operational radius of the Y-20 versus that of the Y-8, an aircraft that does not have such a capability. And the Y-20 itself would be a nice aerial refueling platform. A single refueling could double the operational radius of the Y-20. Without refueling, the Y-20 could support paratroop airdrops in all of Indo-China and the South China Sea. With a single out-bound and in-bound refueling, all of South East Asia [save New Guinea] would be within reach of round-trip airborne assault operations. A second refueling [that is, four in all] would bring Australia within reach of Chinese paratroopers.
The development of the Y-20 is believed to have benefited greatly from assistance by the Ukrainian Antonov design bureau, which had been developing a military transport aircraft in this size class when the Soviet Union collapsed. Development of the AN-70 collapsed along with the Soviet Union, as it was dependent on a Russian turboprop engine. It will be seen that the cross section dimensions of the Y-20 are quite similar to those of the AN-70. But is equally clear that the Y-20 is not simply an "An-70 with jet engines" - the Y-20 is perhaps a quarter longer than the An-70, has a greater wingspan, more sweptback wings, and a high-T tail.
Although the Y-20 is superficially similar to the American C-17, and it is known that Chinese espionage gained access to C-17 technical documentation, the Y-20 is significantly smaller, and the resemblance is no more than superficial. In the past, such design similarities were noted with the American C-141 and Soviet Il-76 cargo planes, the British VC-10 and the Soviet Il-62 passenger planes, and the European and Soviet Supersonic transports. But in these instances, the resemblances were no more than superficial. The laws of aeronautical engineering and aerodynamics are the same in all countries.
As initially seen, the aircraft appears to be powered by four WS-18 low-by-pass engines [the Chinese version of the Russian Soloviev D-30KU], each with a power of 21,000 pounds of thrust. Ultimately it is expected that the Y-20 would be powered by the WS-10 [the long delayed Chinese copy of the 1960s vintage American GE F101 engine] with a power of 27,600 pounds of thrust each, or more likely the highly fuel efficient CFM LEAP-X high-bypass engine with a power of about 30,000 pounds of thrust each. The narrow dimensions of the engine nacelles, indicative of a low-by-pass engine, are in rather striking contract to the pleasingly plump engine nacelles of the American C-17, which is powered by four Pratt & Whitney F117-PW- 100 turbofan engines, each with a thrust of 40,900 pounds.
The Y-20 designation for this aircraft has been associated with the name Grand Canal. The 2010 Report To Congress of The U.S.-China Economic And Security Review Commission states that: "China has made little progress in modernizing its air transport fleet since its last effort in the early 1990s when it bought 18 Russian-made IL-76s. China currently is designing a 200-ton transport aircraft, which, when completed, is to be comparable to the U.S. Air Force C-130." [page 78] The source of this intelligence is unclear, since the open sources cited make no reference to such an airplane. The maximum takeoff weight of the latest C-130J is 87 tons, so a 200-ton aircraft would be in a completely different performance class. In 2005 two Flight International reporters -- Brendan Sobie and Andrew Doyle -- broke the story that China's Xian Aircraft Corp was developing a four-engine jet transport sized between the C-130 and the C-17.
The actual dimensions of the Y-20 remain somewhat uncertain, so it is difficult to assign relative capacities with any great precision. But preliminary data indicates a cargo compartment appreciably smaller than that of the American C-17, and generally comparable to the Ukrainian An-70, which did not enter production.
The development of large aircraft is listed as one of China's 16 major development plans in the country's 11th Five-Year Program (2006-2010). The goal is to produce a large transport aircraft for civil and military purposes by 2015, with entry into civilian service by 2020. According to the president of AVIC-I, the first model of China's Large Civil Aircraft [LCA], a freighter, should be ready by 2018, followed by a 150-seat passenger aircraft. Within a week after Premier Wen Jiabao's 05 March 2006 report on government work to the Chinese National People's Congress, it was clear that the development of "jumbo aircraft" was one of 16 new programs for the 11th Five Year Plan from 2006 to 2010. An official from the AVIC-1 aviation consortium clarified that "jumbo aircraft" referred to a planned "150-seat" airliner, and a 100-ton cargo transport.
Some are calling it 'Y-XX', others went out on a limb with 'Y-13' [which seems to have been applied to the Il-76], while after the debut of the J-20 stealth fighter the Y20 designation drew attention. China seems pretty excited about its chances in the world market. "China's jumbo aircraft will initially target the domestic market. But the ultimate aim is to compete with Boeing and Airbus on the international market," said Jin Qiansheng, deputy director of the administrative committee of Xi'an Yanliang State Aviation High-tech Industry Base. According to Xinhua, China considers an aircraft to be in the "jumbo" category if it can carry 150 passengers and has a gross weight of more than 200,000 pounds.
The simultaneous announcement of two Large Civil Aircraft, one a freighter, and the other a 150-seat passenger aircraft, initially led to some confusion that these two projects envisioned a single aircraft produced in freighter and passenger variants. If the images portrayed by China's Xinhua news agency were accurate, China's jetliner for the 21st century looked suspiciously like a Russian military transport from the 1970s. The high-wing, high-tailed creation, with its multiple banks of landing gear trucks clustered under the fuselage, looks like the big Antonovs that still toil as chartered military cargo aircraft. It looked nothing like the sleek shape of the Boeing 787 that many consider the technology driver of the next generation of commercial airliners.
This made some sense, as a military freighter would be a low risk path to test systems that would subsequently find use on a commercial aircraft. Indeed, there was speculative artwork depicted a generic high-wing military transport outfitted as a passenger plane. In 2001 Japan had launched an indigenous aircraft program that intended to share a common airframe with the domestic C-2 high-wing twin-engine military transport and a low-wing P-1 four-engine Maritime Patrol Aircraft. Plans were also under way to develop the YP-X, a 120-150 seat passenger aircraft derived from the XP-1. However, as details of the Chinese passenger plane emerged, it became clear that it was of conventional layout, lacking the high wing required by a dedicated military transport.
Outlook Weekly via Xinhua News Agency (in Chinese), translated by China Digital Times (CDT), reported on March 29, 2006: "Developing large airplanes, with 100-ton and greater cargo or 150-passenger and greater capacity, has become a key component in promoting the development of aeronautics industry in China's 11th " Five-Year Plan." China will, at an appropriate timing during the 11th "Five-Year Plan," launch the R&D of large airplanes, said Jin Zhuanglong, spokesperson of the Commission for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, or COSTIND."
But this is a mis-translation. " "The development of aircraft included in the national medium-and long-term science and technology development plan and the platform for "25" of the plan, it should be said is this based on a clear understanding of the situation at home and abroad of the Government decision. "Was involved in the Organization of the State Council's" large aircraft project demonstration group "of the Central Policy Research Office Wang Chaoping in acceptance of the lookout, a researcher at an interview with Newsweek say with certainty. The so-called large aircraft, refers to the take-off gross weight of more than 100 tons of transport aircraft, including military and civil large transport planes, including trunk passenger aircraft of more than 150 seats. It is the main civil aviation's most widely used models."
The initial suggestion that the "100-ton" figure referenced the airplane's cargo capacity led to speculation that China was planning to build an analog of the Antonov AN-124-100M-150, currently the world's largest transport aircraft, with a maximum payload of 150 tons and a maximum takeoff weight of about 400 tons. According to the Chinese web site, China Military Aviation, the "Y-20" will weigh more than 400,000lb, placing the transport between between the 585,000lb C-17 and the roughly 311,000lb A400M.
The 603 Institute, XAC and SAC are developing an advanced 4-engine large transport. It is said that this design was begun by AVIC-I to rival the AVIC-II / Antonov ASTC proposal for a 4-turbofan derivative of the An-70. People's Daily Online reported on November 06, 2009 that "China's large aircraft have seen much development lately. A 200-ton military aircraft will make its debut at the end of this year; it will be China's largest military aircraft. The aircraft was independently developed and created by AVIC (China Aviation Industry Group) Xi'an Aircraft Industry (Group) Company Ltd., said Hu Xiaofeng, president of AVIC Aircraft Corporation. " Obviously, this did not happen, at least not in public.
Fitted with high-lift devices on the wing's leading and trailing edges, the aircraft would be capable of taking off from relatively short and unpaved runways, giving access to temporary airfields near the battlefield. It is unclear whether the aircraft will have an IFR probe installed or not. The four engines that would power the Y-XX remain a focus of speculation. While the project is planned with Ukrainian development assistance, it is unclear whether China would use home-made engines or get the engine production line from Ukraine. The prototypes and the initial production run may be powered by the WS-18 turbofans (Russian D-30KP-2), while later production aircraft would be powered by a High Bypass Ratio [HBR] turbofan derived from the modified FWS-10 by 603 Institute.
In July 2008 CFM International launched LEAP-X, an entirely new baseline turbofan engine to power future replacements for current narrow-body aircraft. CFM International (CFM) is a 50/50 joint venture between Snecma (SAFRAN Group) and General Electric Company. LEAP-X1C engine will be assembled in China. LEAP-X thrust baseline for the C919 starts at 30,000 lbs - with much more growth potential. The first full demonstrator engine was scheduled to run in 2012, and LEAP-X could be certified by 2016. The LEAP-X1C-powered C919 is the beginning of a new chapter in the collaboration between CFM, the Chinese aviation industry and Chinese airline customers - a relationship that goes back more than 25 years. as of 2010 there were more than 2,300 CFM56 engines in service or on order with Chinese airlines, representing more than 10 percent of CFM's commercial fleet.
In the US, on 16 July 2009, a former Boeing employee was convicted of selling C-17 technical details to China. Dongfan "Greg" Chung, 72, of Orange, Calif., who was employed by Rockwell International from 1973 until its defense and space unit was acquired by Boeing in 1996, was arrested February 11, 2008 without incident at his residence by special agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and investigators with NASA. Chung, a native of China who is a naturalized United States citizen, held a Secret security clearance when he worked at Rockwell and Boeing on the Space Shuttle program. He retired from the company in 2002, but the next year he returned to Boeing as a contractor, a position he held until September 2006. The indictment alleged that he took and concealed Boeing trade secrets relating to the Space Shuttle, the C-17 military transport aircraft and the Delta IV rocket. Individuals in the Chinese aviation industry had begun sending Chung "tasking" letters as early as 1979. A May 2, 1987 letter from Gu Weihao, an official in the Ministry of Aviation and China Aviation Industry Corporation, concluded with the statement: "It is your honor and China's fortune that you are able to realize your wish of dedicating yourself to the service of your country." Chung responded in one undated letter that "I would like to make an effort to contribute to the Four Modernizations of China."
China-Defense-Mashup reported 05 November 2009 "this military transport aircraft project was initiated before 3-4 years. Chinese Government has esteemed this project as "National Significant Project". The Military department believes that the R&D on heavy airlifter should be based on the mature and reliable technologies, but its performance can approach the international advanced transport aircraft with Chinese independent innovative technologies. It can be summarized that China's future Military Heavy airlifter Prototype will be designed on Russia's IL-76MD. But China's airlift aircraft will has an expanded size and payload capacity, improved electronic devices, and even some concepts absorbed from C-17. For the Engine, China will probably use D-30 engines and then replace them by WS-18 or advanced 4 high-Bypass ratio turbofan engines developed from FWS-10."
There are reports that a wind tunnel model and cockpit section had been built. A full-scale metal mock-up of the forward fuselage of the Y-20 was said to have been constructed by 2008. On 20 August 2009 SAC was said to have started work on the rear fuselage of the first prototype. Nov. 05, 2009, at the first anniversary of Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), its general manager Hu Xiao-feng announced that China Xi'an Aircraft Industry (Group) Company had been taking a sole role on the exploration and manufacturing of this airlift. As of 2010 the first flight was projected in 2012. It was reported in April 2010 that a full-scale mock-up was completed in early 2010. In 2010 the always fantastic China Military Aviation site posted the first images of the Y-20.
Jane's All the World's Aircraft [Publication date May 25, 2010] relates that "Design reportedly initiated in about 2005, involving input from No. 603 Institute and "some technology" from Il-76. Reported that rear fuselage for prototype was under construction at SAC (Shaanxi) by end of 2009; maiden flight targeted for 2012. Rumoured designation Y-20 not confirmed or explained (highest transport aircraft designation used hitherto was Y-16 for abortive project to licence-build Boeing 737)."
China was seeking to carry out the maiden flight of its first large transporter aircraft in 2012, according to a 12 May 2011 press release on the website of Xi'an Aircraft Industry (Group) Company (XAC). Gao Jianshe, vice general manger of Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), said in a speech that all cadres and employees of the AVIC Xi'an Aircraft Industry (Group) Company (XAC) should complete their scientific research and production and ensure that the large jet will make its maiden flight before the 18th CPC National Congress scheduled next yea. The XAC's press release was later removed from its official website. XAC has been studying large transporter aircraft since 1993 and was selected as the major contractor for the aircraft in 2007, mainly in charge of the integration and assembly of the aircraft. The company specializes in manufacturing bombers, fighter-bombers and regional passenger aircraft.
Richard D. Fisher, Jr., Senior Fellow, International Assessment and Strategy Center, in Testimony for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Hearing on China's Emergent Military Aerospace and Commercial Aviation Capabilities, May 20, 2010, noted that "It is not clear if the "200-ton" aircraft is the same as the AVIC-1 transport concept, but Chinese internet reporting has indicated this aircraft is designed to carry a 60-ton payload, which would place it in the same class as the Russian Ilyushin Il-76 and the U.S. Boeing C-17.... By the 2020s new strategic aircraft may ... allow the PLA to combine new capabilities in maritime power projection with long-range strategic air force projection... A large fleet of C-17-size transports plus the new airmobile medium weight armor forces the PLA is building today will give China options for global rapid military maneuver."
Chinese military industry would also have a better homemade platform for domestic production of aerial-tanker, AWACS, large anti-submarine patrol aircraft, and large electronic reconnaissance aircraft. It was also rumored that the aircraft might serve as the testbed for the rumored Chinese airborne laser weapon prototype similar to American YAL-1 which is thought to be under development. But the vastly larger Boeing 747 has turned out to be undersized for an anti-missile laser, so a Chinese laser-armed airplane might be more like the American Tactical Laser, a C-130 laser gunship.
An earthquake occurred 90 km (55 miles) WNW of Chengdu, Sichuan, China and 1545 km (960 miles) SW of Beijing, China at 12:28 AM MDT, May 12, 2008 (2:28 PM local time in China). Over 70,000 people were killed and 375,000 injured, with another 18,392 missing and presumed dead in the Chengdu-Lixian-Guangyuan area. More than 45.5 million people in 10 provinces and regions were affected. At least 15 million people were evacuated from their homes and more than 5 million were left homeless.
Prior to the earthquake, the PLA was hesitant to accept external help, but afterward allowed U.S. Pacific Command to send two C–17 Globemaster III transport planes to Chengdu—delivering upward of 200,000 pounds of disaster relief supplies.27 Russia dispatched 15 Il-76 military-use transport planes to deliver some 350 tons of humanitarian aid.
Nirav Patel wrote in Joint Forces Quarterly that "The Sichuan earthquake is a quintessential example of an airlift-dependent disaster relief operation. Roads, bridges, and tunnels were destroyed, limiting access to almost 40,000 square miles of earthquake-devastated lands. Despite President Hu directing Chinese resources to respond to the crisis, significant airlift capability gaps have hindered responses to relief operations, which require strong air-, land-, and seabased assets. Airpower is demonstrated not only by possession of air superiority fighters, but also by a full-spectrum composition of capabilities to respond to any challenge to a nation’s security. Airlift is a critical element of a nation’s ability to project power overseas, and China’s shortcomings in this area highlight big gaps in its airpower. Many of the capabilities and assets required for large-scale disaster and humanitarian relief operations are also useful for direct action operations."
Only a "Panda-Hugger" would suggest that China developed the Y-20 solely for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. Chinese capabilities to project military power in the areas around the immediate periphery of China are far superior to Chinese military capabilities in more distant areas. Formidable Chinese forces have long existed for operations in areas of Asia that are contiguous to China. Beyond this zone, Chinese military activities have traditionally been limited principally to military assistance. In the new century, however, Chinese military presence abroad has increased significantly. Chinese naval presence at very long ranges from China have emerged with counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia.
It is important to distinguish between "global military reach" and the more common notion of military "power projection." The essential distinction between military reach and power projection is the nature and scope of military operations envisioned under each concept. Military reach is associated with smaller scale operations, often in the context of supporting an ally in a regional crisis. Power projection envisions the deployment of major combined-arms formations, usually against substantial opposition.
Whereas the projection of US military power has long been regarded by many as vital to US security, Chinese defense has not required the deployment of substantial military forces abroad. Indeed, for the United States all major wars for more than a century have been fought beyond American shores, in the Eastern Hemisphere. Chinese wartime experience has been just the opposite. Therefore, it is not surprising that the two armed forces have been developed with differing requirements, and thus different capabilities.
The forces and operational concepts usually associated with power projection include pre-positioned equipment, rapid deployment and amphibious forces, foreign staging and logistic bases, aircraft carriers, and aerial refueling capabilities. These characteristics have generally been lacking in Chinese forces. Instead, Chinese military involvement abroad has been of a different nature. This involvement — global reach — includes provision of arms, dispatch of advisers, acquisition of air and sea access, and small-scale deployment of forces.
But as China increasingly acquires power projection capabilities, the temptation to project power, and to embark on initiatives which are predicated on the potential for power projection may grow. Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko said in 1971, that Soviet power had by then grown to the point that no question of substance can be decided without consideration of Soviet interests. And possibly China harbors similar ambitions. The appetite may grow with the eating.
In the 1960s US Secretory of Defense Robert MacNamara sought to augment American power projection capabilities with the C-5 cargo airplane and the Fast Deployment Logistics Ship, to carry cargo by sea. The Congress denied funding for the later on the grounds that it might tempt the United States to become the world's policeman. Senator Richard B. Russell (D-Ga.), chair of the senate Armed Services Committee, was a leading opponent of the FDLS. The Committee's report on the Pentagon's fiscal 1968 authorization bill concluded that "Beyond the cost, the committee is concerned about the possible creation of an impression that the United States has assumed the function of policing the world, and that it can be thought to be at last considering intervention in any kind of strife or commotion occurring in any of the nations of the world. Moreover, if our involvement in foreign conflicts can be made quicker and easier, there is the temptation to intervene in many situations." Or as Sen. Russell warned, "if it is easy for us to go anywhere and do anything, we will always be going somewhere and doing something."
Though Congress delayed the procurement of the FDLS, it funded the Air Force's C-5A. Two decades later, the FDLS was resurrected in the form of prepositioned cargo ships and fast sealift forces. And so it became easy for the US to go anywhere and do anything, and since the end of the Cold War the US has always been going somewhere and doing something.
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