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Y-20 / Y-XX - Specialized Variants

The Y-20 provides Chinese military industry with a homemade platform for domestic production of aerial-tanker, AWACS, large anti-submarine patrol aircraft, and large electronic reconnaissance aircraft. A long-body stretched version of the Chinese Y-20 Military Transport Aircraft is planned, along the lines of the C-141B, to increase the aircrafts cargo carrying capacity.

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 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.

Y-20U tanker

Few maneuvers in military aviation are more complex than aerial refueling. The maneuver brings into physical contact two aircraft hurtling through turbulent air at hundreds of miles per hour. One may be carrying thousands of pounds of high-explosive ordnance while the other carries thousands of gallons of highly flammable fuel.

Despite this complexity, military pilots perform aerial refueling numerous times daily, around the world, in all weather and at all hours. Intensive training is crucial to prepare the air refueling crew to ensure the safety of both the refueling and receiving aircraft, as well as to maximize mission success.

The U.S. Air Force uses an aerial refueling method that involves extending and lowering a telescoping metal boom from a tanker aircraft. Depending on the type of receiver aircraft being refueled, the tanker crewmember who operates the boom (the boom operator) uses a unique set of controls to either fly the booms nozzle into a refueling receptacle on the receiver aircraft or to extend a boom drogue adapter to receive a refueling probe. Developing the skills needed to operate the boom safely and reliably requires repetitive practice, much of which is currently gained during multiple training flights.

Some 500,000 elated members of the armed forces and civilians held a grand military and civilian parade at Tian'anmen Square on the morning of 01 October 2009, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. While the audience was still applauding the rumbling tanks that slowly roared past the square, 132 planes in 10 groups flew overhead. The show involved airmen from the army, navy and air force, a combination that appeared for the first time on a National Day military parade. The Chinese-made HY-6 aerial refueling tanker which made its debut at the show attracted special attention. When the refueling tanker dragging a long pipe flew over the square along with oil-receiving planes, no one would doubt the marked improvement in the long-range combat capability of the Chinese air force.

Beijing purchased four IL-78 refueling tankers, which will refuel the Russian SU-30 aircraft in both PLAAF and PLANAF inventoriesgiving them reach out into the Sea of Japan, the South China Sea, and to Guam. SU-30 aerial refueling training occurred during Peace Mission 2005, but Russian pilots were probably in all of the involved aircraft. Chinese aerial refueling capability was coming to fruition very slowly, but can no longer be dismissed by opposing force commanders.

Peter W. Singer and Jeffrey Lin reported 02 April 2014 in their Eastern Arsenal blog that China would soon receive three IL-78 Midas tankers from Russia. China originally purchased eight tankers from Russia in 2005, but the deal has been on hold for nearly a decade due to Russian inability to source new airframes. The tankers had been refurbished from Ukrainian Air Force surplus. The acquisition will give China the ability to refuel aircraft such as the Su-30 strike fighters and KJ-2000 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEWC) system during extended missions over disputed maritime areas.

Y-20U tanker Y-20U tanker Y-20U tanker Y-20U tanker

In late 2018, a prototype suspected of being a Y-20U tanker appeared on the apron of Xi'an Yanliang Airport. Some netizens sketched the CG map and thought about the possible shape of the aircraft. Compared with the Yun-20A transport aircraft, the largest feature of the Yun-20U was the refueling pods under the left and right wings. It is judged to adopt a hose refueling method similar to the H-6U/Il-78 tanker, which can be two at the same time. The J-10 / J-16 / J-20 fighters are refueling, and it is believed that it will also refuel the H-6C cruise missile carrier and the Air Police-500A early warning aircraft.

Russian satellite network said on 08 December 2018 that such a modification not only solved the problem of air refueling of heavy fighters such as the Chinese Air Force J-11 series and Su-30MKK, but also brought China's air nuclear deterrent capability to a higher level. Taiwans Zhongshi Electronics News said on the 8th that foreign satellite photos were discovered in November, and the large tanker modified from Yun-20 was parked with the PLAs existing Il-78 and H-6 oil tankers. The report speculated that the newly modified tanker can carry about 70 tons of oil, which can meet the air refueling needs of 6-8 sorties of J-11 series or J-20 fighters.

The Russian satellite network said that the air tanker modified by the Yun-20 had been successfully flying for the first time. The report quoted Russian military expert Vasily Kashin as saying that the components of the aerial tanker and the main technical solution for converting large transport aircraft into aerial tankers were the Chinese experts who bought the former Soviet Union in Ukraine. The -78 tanker was copied from the base. According to reports, the Il-78 tanker was also built on the basis of the Il-76 large transport aircraft.

Although China has the ability to independently manufacture the H-6 oil tanker on the basis of the H-6 medium-range bomber, it is difficult to provide long-range bombers, patrol aircraft, long-range radar warning machines and radios due to the latters deadweight and capacity. Reconnaissance aircraft and other large aircraft refueling. At the same time, the bombing oil-6 has a small cabin and is not efficient for refueling the Su-30MKK heavy fighter. Therefore, it mainly provides fuel for the light fighters such as the J-8IID and the J-10 in the Chinese Air Force.

A Chinese expert told the Global Times reporter that the idea of using the Yun-20 as an aerial tanker has been around for a long time. After all, the experience of many wars shows that the aerial tanker has become an indispensable model in the modern air battlefield. It can greatly enhance the airborne capability of the fighter aircraft, and it can be called the "force multiplier." Whether it is the performance of the US Air Force in previous partial conflicts, or the recent tactics of the Russian Armys Tu-95MS bomber to attack 7,000 kilometers of terrorists in Syria, most of them were realized by relying on air refueling. To enhance the strategic capabilities of the Chinese Air Force, aerial tankers are also indispensable.

The Chinese Air Force expert Fu Shoufeng said in an interview with the Global Times that the Yun-20 can be considered to install detachable fueling equipment. When it is necessary to refuel in the air, it will be equipped with a mobile fuel tank and matching fueling equipment; if not, it will be dismantled and the aircraft would continue the transportation mission.

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