Xi’an Y-20 Military Transport Aircraft

The Y-20 (Yun-20) is a four-engine jet-powered transport aircraft designed and developed by the 603 Aircraft Design Institute and the Xi’an Aircraft Corporation (XAC). The aircraft was partially based on the Russian Ilyushin IL-76 technology. The Antonov Design Bureau also provided some assistance in the aircraft development.

Two prototypes powered by Russian-supplied D-30KP-2 turbofan engines have been built for flight test and evaluation, one of which made its maiden flight successfully on 26 January 2013. The aircraft is expected to enter batch production within the next 5-7 years. Once commissioned, it will make significant improvement to PLA’s power projection capabilities.

Key Facts

  • Designer: Xi’an Aircraft Design Institute (603 Institute)
  • Manufacturer: Xi’an Aircraft Corporation (XAC)
  • Maiden flight: 26 January 2013
  • Crew: Three or four
  • Powerplant: Four D-30KP-2 turbofan engines
  • Max payload: 50-60 tonnes
  • Max take-off weight: 180-200 tonnes

Development History

In March 2007, the Chinese government officially approved the long waited plan to develop the country’s own large passenger jets. The State Council also gave go-ahead to set up a company in charge of the design, development and construction of the aircraft. In a statement issued by the State Council, the Chinese government stated: “Our country has been developing the aviation industry for 50 years, and already has the technical and material base to develop large aircraft.”

Although the statement gave no details on investment figures or when or where the aircraft might be made, it is understood that China’s two state-owned aircraft makers, AVIC I and AVIC II, as well as the Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defence (COSTIND), would all be involved in developing the jets. Both AVIC I and AVIC II are currently making components for Airbus and Boeing and also posses experience in civilian aircraft development and manufacturing.

On 4 April 2007, Hong- Kong-based newspaper Wenweipo disclosed that China’s future large transport jets will include both civil passenger and military transport versions. The passenger jet was to be built in Shanghai and the military transport version at XAC. A photo of a scaled model of the military transport aircraft was circulated on the Chinese Internet in January 2007. No further details were revealed until early 2013, when Chinese press announced the successful taxiing test of the aircraft at the China Flight Test Establishment (CFTE) airfield.


The Y-20 features a high-wing, four-engine, T-tailed layout, similar to the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III though slightly smaller in size. The max payload of the aircraft was said to be around 50-60 tonnes, and the max take-off weight 180-200 tonnes. The main landing gears consist of two six-wheel undercarriages, allowing the aircraft to operate from unpaved airfields. The fuselage of the Y-20 appears to be shorter and bulkier than that of the IL-76, making it possible to carry heavy equipment such as main battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, and heavy artillery inside its cargo bay.


The Y-20 is expected to have been incorporated with some off-the-shelf commercial airline technologies. It features a glass cockpit with head-up displays (HDU) for the pilots. The aircraft may also be fitted with electronic warfare and countermeasures (EW/ECM) suite consisting jammers and flare dispensers for self-defence.


Length 47 m
Wingspan 50 m
Height 15 m
Empty N/A
Normal take-off N/A
Max take-off N/A
Fuel capacity N/A
Max payload 66 t
Powerplant 4X D-30KP-2 turbofan
Thrust (dry) N/A
Max level speed 700 km/h
Cruising speed N/A
Cruising altitude N/A
Service ceiling 13,000 m
Range 7,800 km
Take-off/landing distance 800 m

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