China's New Y-20 Heavy Transport Jet Takes First Flight
The highly anticipated first flight of China's enormous new Y-20 four-engined heavy cargo jet was, by all accounts, a complete success. The flight lifts China into a very exclusive club as the Y-20 now joins the United States' C-17 and Russia's Il-76 in the ranks of the world's largest military jet transport aircraft.
The Y-20 (Yun-20 or Transport-20) is the culmination of China's long quest to domestically manufacture a large “strategic airlifter.” A product of the Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation, only two prototypes of the 100,000 kg (220,400 lb), 50 meter () wingspan jet have been produced and they're powered by four Russian-built Soloviev D-30KP-2 engines. Regular production Y-20 jets will carry Chinese-built WS-20 turbofan engines instead.
Since December of 2012 the Y-20 has been conducting ground-based testing including runway taxi tests. Operated by a crew of three, the Y-20 is designed to carry up to 60 tons of cargo up to 4,400 km (2,734 miles) at a cruise speed of Mach 0.75 and with a service ceiling of 13,000 meters (42,700 ft).
The Y-20 shares a host of design features with its American and Russian brethren though most (if not all) of these are standard attributes of large military transport planes. For example, the Y-20's high-set wing and “T”-tail T-tail are necessitated by the need for loading cargo through a wide rear door.
Although official Chinese government sources stress the need for a plane like the Y-20 is predicated on the demands of long-distance, high capacity disaster relief and humanitarian aid, its true purpose is to provide China with a wholly-owned and operated means of projecting military force over great distances. (via Xinhua, Indian Defence, and Air Force World)