The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) flew its Xian Y-20A Kunpeng heavy strategic airlifter to Innsbruck for the first time, reports Carsten Vennemann.
Last week the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) sent its Xian Y-20A Kunpeng heavy strategic airlifter, nicknamed the ‘Chubby Girl’ on account of its wider than usual fuselage, for a second time to Austria and the first time to Innsbruck.
It was a little after eight in the morning on February 20th when the Xian Y-20A announced her arrival with the characteristic sound of her four Russian-made Soloviev D-30KP-2 engines. Some seconds later she was visible for the first final approach on runway 26 of Innsbruck Airport.
The airlifter with the serial 20240, in service with the 13th Transport Division / 37th Air Regiment based at Kaifeng Air Base in the southern suburb of Kaifeng City (east-central Henan Province), flew 43 Chinese soldiers with their equipment from Ürümqi in the north-west of China via Tekirdağ (Turkey) into the Tyrolean capital. They will participate in the Edelweiss-Raid international mountain infantry competition oft the Austrian Army.
Two hours later the Y-20A started its engines again and departed back to Tekirdağ with an impressive take-off and following climb. After the participation at Airpower in Zeltweg last year, this was just the second time that the PLAAF had flown the Xian Y-20A to Austria; the next fly-in is scheduled for March 3rd, when the Chinese soldiers will return to their homeland.
The Xian Y-20 has been developed for military strategic transport with the intention of replacing the Russian-built Ilyushin IL-76 until now now operated as backbone of the PLAAF strategic airlift fleet. Ten years ago, in January 2013, the first prototype of the Xian Y-20 made its maiden flight, followed by a second prototype in December that year. In 2016 the first new strategic airlifters started operation in the 4th Transport Division / 12th Air Regiment based at Chengdu / Qionglai. Currently, the PLAAF has more than 40 Y-20A in service.
With an empty weight of 100,000 kg and a maximum take-off weight of up to 220,000 kg, the Y-20A with its four Soloviev D-30KP-2 engines has a payload of up to 60 tonnes. The heavy airlifter has a range of 10,000 km with low payload, 7,800km with 40 tonnes and 4500km with full load. Fitted with the new more powerful Shenyang WS-20 high-bypass turbofans the payload can reach 66 tonnes. It is expected that the then designated Y-20B will enter service late this or next year.
The Y-20A is capable of carrying all existing types of Chinese armoured vehicles including the Norinco ZTZ-99 main battle tank of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which can weigh anything from 51 to 58 tonnes, dependent on the variant. There are unconfirmed reports that the cargo hold of the Y-20 was redesigned to accommodate the ZTZ-99A2, the PLA’s heaviest MBT.
In 2021 the PLAAF brought the YY-20 into service; this aerial tanker is the latest version of the Y-20. Four YY-20 tankers are currently in operation with the 13thTransport Division / 38 Air Regiment in Wuhan / Paozhuwan.
[report and images © Carsten Vennemann]
¤ Carsten Vennemann is a specialist German aviation and defence journalist of our personal acquaintance who is writing for JOINT-FORCES for the first time.