Military Wiki
Y-20 flight on Airshow China 2016
Role Strategic airlifter
National origin China
Manufacturer Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation
Designer Tang Changhong[1]
First flight 26 January 2013
Introduction 6 July 2016[2][3]
Status In service, in production[2][3]
Primary user PLA Air Force
Produced 2013-present

The Xi'an Y-20 (Chinese: 运-20) is a large military transport aircraft. The project is being developed by Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation and was officially launched in 2006.[4] The official codename of the aircraft is Kunpeng (Chinese: 鲲鹏).[5] after the mythical bird of ancient China that can fly for thousands of kilometres.[6] However, within the Chinese aviation industry itself, the aircraft is more commonly known by its nickname Chubby Girl (Chinese: 胖妞), because its wide fuselage in comparison to other Chinese aircraft previously developed in China.[7]

Design and development

The Y-20's general designer is Tang Changhong (Chinese: 唐长红),[1] (the general designer of Xian JH-7), and the deputy general designer is Guo Zhaodian (Chinese: 郭兆电).[7] The aircraft was primarily designed and developed in China under Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation.[8]

Y-20 at Airshow China 2014

The Y-20 uses components made of composite materials.[9] The composites are produced in China, whereas in the past they had to be imported.[10] The Y-20's cabin incorporates flame-retardant composites developed by the 703 Institute of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The 703 Institute was created in March 2009 with development taking three years. The performance of the composites is reportedly comparable to those that fulfill FAR Part 25.835. The 703 Institute achieved another milestone by establishing a comprehensive Chinese evaluation and certification system for aircraft composite materials based on international standards.[11]

The Y-20 is the first cargo aircraft to use 3D printing technology to speed up its development and to lower its manufacturing cost.[12] Model-based definition (MBD) is also used, and it's the third aircraft to utilize MBD technology in the world, after Airbus A380 (2000) and Boeing 787 (2005).[13] A project team to implement MBD for Y-20 program was formally formed in October 2009, and after the initial success in application on the main landing gear, MBD application was expanded to the entire aircraft and became mandatory for all contractors and sub contractors of the Y-20 program.[13] The implementation of MBD was initially met with strong resistance, with only a third of suppliers agreeing to implement MBD. However, the general designer of Y-20 declared that those who refused to implement MBD will be banned from participating in the Y-20 program, thus forcing everyone to comply, resulting in increases in productivity.[13] The implementation of MBD greatly shortened the time required, for example, without MBD, installation of wings takes a month or two, but with MBD adopted, the time is drastically shortened to just a few hours, and in general, the design work reduced by 40%, preparation for production reduced by 75%, and manufacturing cycle reduced by 30%.[13]

In addition to 3D printing, Y-20 is also the first aircraft in China adopting associative design technology (ADT) in its development.[13] Headed by the deputy general designer of structural design, Mr. Feng Jun (冯军), the initial attempt to implement ADT actually failed after two months spent on application on the nose section. It was only after the second attempt that took another three months on the application on wings did ADT became successful.[13] The adaptation of ADT greatly shortened the development time by at least eight months, and modification of wing design that previously took a week is shortened to half a day.[13]

Cargo is loaded through a large aft ramp that accommodates rolling stock. The Y-20 incorporates a shoulder wing, T-tail, rear cargo-loading assembly and heavy-duty retractable landing gear, consists of three rows, with a pair of wheels for each row, totaling six wheels for each side. The structural test was completed in 194 days as opposed to the 300 days originally planned, thanks to the successful development and application of an automated structural strength analysis system.[13] In comparison, similar work for Xian JH-7 took a year.[13] According to the deputy general designer, the shortest take-off distance of Y-20 is 600 to 700 meters.[7] Y-20 incorporates a total of four LCD EFIS, and the development of EFIS for Y-20 utilizes virtual reality via helmet mounted display.[7] Eight types of different relays used on Y-20 are developed by Guilin Aerospace Co., Ltd. a wholly own subsidiary of China Tri-River Aerospace Group Co., Ltd.(中国三江航天集团), which is also known as the 9th Academy of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC).[11]

It was reported that the Y-20 started ground testing from December 2012, including runway taxi tests.[14][15][16][17] The aircraft made its maiden flight lasting one hour on January 26, 2013.[18][19][20] During landing in first flight, it was reported that the Y-20 prototype bounced once before finally settling on runway due to high landing speed.[21] In December 2013, a new Y-20 prototype took to the sky.[22]

On 6 February 2016 the Y-20 was flown for the first time and pictures of the fifth prototype (serial number 788) in flight appeared on Chinese military webpages. Other known prototypes carry identification numbers 781, 783 and 785. On 27 January 2016, former Chinese test pilot Xu Yongling had reported in a Xinhua article that Chinese aviation industry officials had stated that the Y-20 "completed development" at the end of 2015. In June 2016, the first two Xian Y-20 aircraft were delivered to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF)People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) [23]


The Y-20 is powered by four 12-ton thrust Soloviev D-30KP-2 engines.;[24] and all early production units are likely to be similarly powered.[25][26] The Chinese intend to replace the D-30 with the 14-ton thrust WS-20, which is required for the Y-20 to achieve its maximum cargo capacity of 66 tons.[24] The Shenyang WS-20 is derived from the core of the Shenyang WS-10A, an indigenous Chinese turbofan engine for fighter aircraft.[27]

In 2013, Shenyang Engine Design and Research Institute was reportedly developing the SF-A, a 28700-pound thrust engine, for the Y-20 and the Comac C919. The SF-A is derived from the core of the WS-15. Compared to the WS-20, the SF-A is a conservative design that does not seek to match the technology of more modern engines.[28]

Future production

In 2014 the PLA National Defence University's Center for Economic Research recommended the purchase of up to 400 Y-20s, comparing the PLAAF's needs with the existing airlifter fleets of the United States and Russia.[26] In June 2016 Jane's reported that up to 1,000 Y-20s are being requested by the Chinese military.[29][30][31][32][33][34][35]

On 6 July 2016 the first serial Y-20 (serial number 11051) was handed over to the PLAAF in a ceremony.[36] The second aircraft serialed 11052 followed soon after - it is assigned to the 12th Regiment of the 4th Transport Division at Qionglai, Chengdu.[23][37]


At least two aircraft stationed at Qionglai Air Base since July 2016.[38]

Specifications (estimated)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3: pilot, copilot & load master
  • Payload: 66 tonnes[18] (145,505 lb)
  • Length: 47 m[39] (154.2 ft)
  • Wingspan: 45 m[40] (147 ft ~ 164 ft)
  • Height: 15 m (49.2 ft)
  • Wing area: 330 m² (3550 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 100,000 kg (220,400 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 220,000 kg (485,000 lb)
  • Powerplant: 4 × turbofans Soloviev D-30KP-2 (WS-20 future planned)


  • Cruise speed: Mach 0.75
  • Range: 4,500 km with max payload; 7,800 km with 40 tons; 10,000+ km with paratroops. ()
  • Service ceiling: 13,000 m (42,700 ft)
  • Max. wing loading: 710 kg/m² (145 lb/ft²)

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "New jumbo transport jet completes more tests". East Day. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "运-20飞机授装接装仪式举行 许其亮出席并讲话" (in Chinese). Xinhua News Agency. 6 July 2016. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "中国空军列装运-20飞机提升战略投送能力" (in Chinese). Xinhua News Agency. 6 July 2016. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  4. "China's first heavy transporter Y-20 takes off". Retrieved 26 Jan 2013. 
  5. "Y-20 gives air power a push". Retrieved 28 Jan 2013. 
  6. Dave Sloggett, "THE DRAGON Gains its Strategic Wings" Air International, March 2013, pp. 94-95
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "Y-20". Sina Corp. Retrieved February 15, 2014. 
  8. "Y-20 Heavy Transport Aircraft -". 
  9. Sweetman, Bill; Perrett, Bradley (4 February 2013). "Avic Y-20 Airlifter Awaits Better Engines". 
  10. "Air Transportation: China Hits Another Major Milestone". 21 February 2013. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 胡光曲, ed (5 February 2013). "運20機艙裝備國產新型複合材料 提高防火性能". Retrieved 5 February 2013. 
  12. "央视首次曝光运20运输机驾驶舱内部珍贵画面". Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 13.8 "Development of Y-20". Retrieved August 8, 2013. 
  14. "Y-20 transport aircraft starts testing, first flight completed". Retrieved 24 Dec 2012. 
  15. "Chinese Y-20 revealed in new online pictures". Retrieved 27 Dec 2012. 
  16. "IN FOCUS: China’s new strategic airlifter". Flightglobal. Retrieved 14 Jan 2013. 
  17. David Axe (4 January 2013). "Satellites Spot China’s Mysterious New Warplane". Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 "我国自主发展的运—20大型运输机首次试飞取得圆满成功". Retrieved 26 Jan 2013. 
  19. "视频 国产大型运输机运-20首飞成功". Retrieved 26 Jan 2013. 
  20. "视频 国产大型运输机首飞成功:我国运输机发展之路". Retrieved 26 Jan 2013. 
  21. "VIDEO:Y-20 prototype first flight completed". Retrieved 26 Jan 2013. 
  22. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 17, 2013. Retrieved December 17, 2013. 
  23. 23.0 23.1
  24. 24.0 24.1 Fisher, Richard D Jr (4 September 2014). "China's Y-20 'enters second phase of testing'". 
  25.[unreliable source?]
  26. 26.0 26.1 Fisher, Richard D Jr; Hardy, James (28 July 2014). "China's NDU recommends 400-strong Y-20 fleet". 
  27. Fisher, Richard D Jr (22 December 2013). "China marks aviation milestones with J-10B production, second Y-20 prototype flight". 
  28. Perret, Bradley (7 November 2013). "Avic Engine Pushes Alternative To ACAE CJ-1000 Turbofan For C919". 
  29. chainsoff (8 June 2016). "China military fleet to get 1,000 large strategic aircraft". 
  30. "Y-20 production debate A". Retrieved November 18, 2014. 
  31. "Y-20 production debate B". Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  32. "Y-20 production debate C". Retrieved June 20, 2016. 
  33. "Y-20 production debate D". Retrieved July 13, 2016. 
  34. "Y-20 production debate E". Retrieved November 19, 2014. 
  35. "Y-20 production debate F". Retrieved April 8, 2016. 
  36. "运-20飞机授装接装仪式举行 许其亮出席并讲话" (in Chinese). Xinhua. 6 July 2016. Retrieved 6 July 2016. 
  37. "@Rupprecht_A on Twitter". 
  38. Dominguez, Gabriel (7 July 2016). "Chinese air force inducts Y-20 transport aircraft into service" (in English). London. Retrieved 7 July 2016. 
  39. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 3, 2013. Retrieved January 29, 2013. 
  40. "Xian Y-20 Specification & Technical Data – Defence Aviation". 25 April 2016. 

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