The fifth prototype of the Xian Aircraft Corporation (XAC) Y-20 has surfaced on Chinese military webpages. The indusrty experts are speculating the heavy strategic transport aircraft can enter into service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) as early as this year.
The prototype bears the bort number 789 and is supposed to have already flown on 6 February 2016. This test plane follows soon after the fourth prototype, with bort number 788, which was seen on Chinese web pages on 23 January 2016. Other known prototypes carry tail numbers 781, 783, and 785.
In a 27 January Xinhua article, former Chinese test pilot Xu Yongling stated that Chinese aviation industry officials had stated that the Y-20 “completed development” at the end of 2015. Xu, who participated in the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation J-10 fighter test programme, suggested that the Y-20 could enter service in 2016.
In an article for People’s Daily, professor at the PLAAF Command College Chen Hong stated that the payload for the Y-20 was “60 tons” – more than that of the Russian Ilyushin IL-76MD, which is credited with a 52-tonne payload.
Chen also noted that the Y-20 could be a multipurpose platform and be developed into airborne early warning, electronic warfare/jamming, and tanker variants.
The Y-20 could become a potent platform for the PLA Navy Air Force (PLANAF) and support and defend China’s growing island outposts in the South China Sea.