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China's indigenous large airlifter makes maiden flight


A graphical illustration of the Y-20 aircraft. A file photo

BEIJING (BNS): China's indigenously-built large military transport aircraft, dubbed Y-20, has made its maiden flight last week.

The successful test flight of the heavy air freighter took place on January 26, the official media reported.

The Defence Ministry had officially announced the development of the multi-role transport plane last month after images of the new airlifter appeared for the first time on the internet.

"The successful maiden flight of the Y-20 is important in promoting China's economic and national defence buildup, as well as improving its emergency response and humanitarian aid abilities," the China Daily reported quoting a Defence Ministry statement, which said that more experiments and test flights would be scheduled.

Developed by Xian Aircraft Industry, a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the Y-20 has a maximum payload of 66 metric tons and a maximum takeoff weight of more than 200 tons, according to reports.

The high payload means the aircraft can fly the heaviest tank of the People Liberation Army (PLA) -- the 58-ton Type-99A2.

The design of Y-20 bears some resemblance to the US' C-17 and Russian Il-76 aircraft, according to some military experts.

At present, China's aerial strategic delivery capability is mostly dependant on the imported IL-76s, numbering a few. Other transporters used by the military include the Y-7, the Y-8 and their variants which are based on the Soviet-designed Antonov An-24 and An-12 series of planes.

Both have relatively light payloads and cannot carry heavy-duty armoured vehicles and tanks, according to China Daily.

The successful development of the new domestically-built Y-20 would lessen and eventually end this dependence.

China, in recent times, has taken rapid strides in military advancements by developing high-tech military equipment. Last year, it launched its refurbished sole aircraft carrier Liaoning, along with the J-15 naval fighter plane which would be deployed on the carrier.

It also unveiled J-31 -- its second stealth fighter after the J-20 radar evading fighter plane which made maiden flight in January 2011. The J-31 made its first test flight on October 31, 2012 and was later displayed during the country's annual air show at Zhuhai.

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