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Y-20 / Y-XX - Program History

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.

The 603 Institute, XAC and SAC developed this 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.

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.

The Y-20 prototype aircraft achieved maximum take-off weight and maximum altitude, Tang Changhong, member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and chief designer of the Y-20 heavy-duty transport aircraft, said 13 March 2013. The Y-20 heavy-duty transport aircraft is a new-generation aircraft independently developed by China, with a maximum take-off weight of about 220 tons and a maximum payload of 66 tons.

'Development of the domestically designed engine which will be soon be used to equip the Y-20 has also been proceeding very smoothly. A lot of progress has been made,' said Tang. Aircraft under initial research and development are referred to as prototypes. The first and the second Y-20 prototype aircraft made their maiden flights last year, on Jan. 26 and at the end of December respectively. During their test flights, they underwent a variety of flight checks. 'The success of the test flights has verified the 'excellent quality' of Y-20,' said Tang.

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."

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