China is the new star on the horizon as its aircraft industry tries to catch up with Russian and American technology. The Chinese wish to be self-reliant in the field of military aviation and this has led to the development of the Y-20. The plane does appear to be similar to the IL-76 which is also operated by the Chinese air force. The Il-76 is a Russian plane. There is a possibility that the Chinese have done reverse engineering on the IL-76 and perfected their own transport plane.

The Y-20

The Y-20 is expected to join the Peoples Liberation Army Air Force by 2017. its prototype is being extensively tested. The plane can carry 60 tons of freight over a range of about 6000km.

The plane will add to the military muscle of the armed forces of China. India, the rival of China in Asia has no such machine on the design table though the Japanese are developing one. The Chinese have been developing the plane since 2013 and now it will be ready for operational use.

The Y-20 has a rear loading cargo configuration with a retractable landing gear. The plane has been given the code name 'Kunpeng' which is supposed to be a mythical Chinese bird. Currently, the plane uses 4 Russian made Soloviev turbofan engines but in the near future, these will be replaced by Chinese-made turbofan engines. But this may not be before 2020. In the meantime, the Chinese will use the Russian engines under license. The Russians have no objection as they have a partnership with China, as both have a common opponent in the USA.

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The plane is designed to carry the heaviest Chinese tank and has a range of nearly 4000 miles. The Chinese plan to induct this transport plane in the air force to beef up their strategic response to the so-called American threat.

The future

The Y-20 is a feather in the cap of China and makes it only the third country after the US and Russia to have an indigenous heavy military transport aircraft. The development of the Y-20 is a tribute to the Chinese aviation industry. With mounting tensions with the USA in the South China Sea, this plane will add to the strategic maneuverability of the Chinese armed forces. The development of this plane makes China the sole superpower in Asia relegating India to the background.