Y-20 / Y-XX - Antonov Participation
In June 2000 it was reported that Russia and Ukraine would build the new-generation Antonov 70 transport aircraft, not with Germany, as had been planned, but with China. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said that negotiations with Berlin had resulted in the Germans saying they would not support the joint Ukrainian-Russian An-70 project, Interfax reported. ``We won't try to win over the Germans, but will complete the project with China," Sergeyev said. A Chinese military delegation visited Ukraine and expressed an interest in the AN-70 transport aircraft.
At the Zhuhai airshow in November 2000, Antonow tried to market the An-70 in China. This would likely involve co-production with AVIC II. The Antonov Design Bureau offered cooperation to the Shansiy aircraft building corporation to build a new airplane using Antonov An-70 as a basic model. The Chinese side left the offer unanswered, although the proposition was negotiated during Li Peng's visit to Ukraine in the middle of 2000.
In 2003, a publication by Hu Xiaofeng [the general manager of Shaanfei - Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation] proposed using the An-70, a Ukrainian heavy transportation aircraft model still in its testing stage, as China’s model for its large transportation aircraft. Shaanfei’s Y-8 middle-size transportation aircraft, another Antonov knock-off, had been the only domestically made transportation aircraft used by the PLAAF.
At the 2008 Zhuhai airshow, Antonov displayed a model of the large An-70 military transport aircraft, based on which China and Ukraine could jointly develop the AN-70-600. The new An-70-600 transport aircraft's maximum payload was expected be 48t-50t compared to An-70's 47t. One of China's requirements is that An-70-600's flight range should be at least 3,200km when carrying the maximum load. China also hoped that it can carry at least 3 China-made infantry fighting vehicles, or 120-150 paratroopers.
According to Ukrainian reports, at least three design candidates were submitted to the Chinese to address the Y-20 requirements:
- An-70 turboprop
- An-77, a version of the An-70 with turbofans
- An-170, a heavily modified and larger version of the An-70
According to Ukrainian sources, the Antonov bureau proposed a radical development of its An-70 transport that would replace its current contra-rotating propfan engines with four turbofan engines, lengthen the fuselage and increase cargo capacity to between 50 and 60 tons. This would approach the 70-ton capacity of the Boeing C-17 and exceed the 50-ton capability of the Ilyushin Il-76MD. The Chinese military transport aircraft would adopt different design concepts and technologies than the An-70 transport aircraft designed by Ukraine and Russia, and will be powered by four jet engines.
It appeared the new An-70 variant may be able to carry four of the ZLC-2000 airborne tank revealed in 2005 by the PLA. In September 2005 the PLA agreed to purchase about 32 Il-76MD transports, which can carry three ZLC-2000s, in addition to about 20 acquired during the 1990s. Antonov has also helped China's Shaanxi Aircraft Company to produce a much improved version of the Y-8 called the Y-9, which can carry 20 tons of cargo. In addition, China held discussions with Antonov regarding the possible co-production of the 150-ton capacity An-124 Ruslan, which exceeds the 120-ton capacity of the US C-5 transport.
By early 2007 ANTK Antonov set up a new VTL (Heavy Transport Aircraft) working group, to start developing a heavy transport using the existing designs for the An-77, a turbojet version of the An-70, which had earlier been put on hold. The take-off weight of the aircraft was increased from 132 tonnes to 187 tonnes, the maximum payload went up from 47 to 50 tonnes, and the volume of the cargo bay was increased by adding a 2-meter insert in the airframe in front of the center-wing section. The original An-77 design relied on four CFM56-5A16 bypass turbofan engines; these were replaced by four D-30KP-2 bypass turbofan engines eventually used in the Y-20. The aircraft retained the ability to take-off and land using short landing strips, although the take-off length went up to 900m. The solution for increasing the thrust was the same as used in the An-77. First introduced in the C-17A Globemaster III, it directs the exhaust jet of the bypass turbofan engine at the high-lift flaps.
Major changes were made to the Y-20 design in 2010, with the entry into service with the Chinese army of the Type 99-IIA [aka Type 99A2] main battle tank. The combat weight of this tank, which has many similarities to German Leopard IIA6, is 58 tonnes. This imposed greater payload requirements for the aircraft, which was still expected to be able to carry the heaviest tanks in service with the Chinese Army. The project switched to a different variant of the An-70, the An-170. Antonov worked on the An-170 is a heavy operational-strategic transport in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The project was in competition with the the Ilyushin Bureau's Il-106, which was announced the winner by the Soviet authorities. Owing to the crisis after the break-up of the Soviet Union, neither aircraft entered production. The An-170 is much larger and heavier than the An-70, with a take-off weight of 230 tonnes and a maximum payload of 60 tonnes. Another difference is the regular wing profile of the An-170, whereas the An-70 uses the so-called supercritical profile.
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 "This decade will ... see the emergence of a new C-17 size Chinese strategic transport aircraft.... it can be expected that during this year or next that AVIC will reveal more details on this large transport. In 2006 Ukrainian officials noted they had been hired as consultants by X'ian Aircraft Design and Research Institute (603 Institute) to consult on large aircraft programs, to include the possible adaptation of Antonov's turbofan-powered An-70 for turbofan propulsion. Then in 2007 a Ukrainian official confirmed that images of a model of a Chinese four-turbofan military transport was another AVIC-1 design."
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