Aircraft maker expects exports of Y-20 airlifters

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Commercial derivatives of the Y-20, China's first domestically developed strategic airlifter that is expected to enter service around 2017, will be exported to other countries, according to aviation industry insiders.

"We will develop a number of variants of the Y-20 and we are definitely going to export them," said Tang Jun, chairman of Xi'an Aircraft Industry (Group) Co, a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corp of China, and the leading maker of the nation's large aircraft such as the H-6 bomber and MA-60 regional airliner.

Tang, a National People's Congress deputy from Shaanxi province, told China Daily on the sidelines of the ongoing annual session of the NPC, China's top legislature.

The price of the Y-20 has not been set because the development cost has not been assessed and it is too early to forecast how many Y-20s will be ordered, Tang said.

Tang's company is the major developer and manufacturer of the Y-20, which sources said began to be developed in the early 1990s.

Tang noted that some of the technical standards of the commercial versions will differ from military ones.

Currently, the company exports more than 10 civil aircraft to foreign countries each year, he said.

"The Y-20 has huge potential in the commercial air transport market, but I think even the export of its commercial derivatives will also need permission from the military," Wang Ya'nan, deputy editor-in-chief at Aerospace Knowledge magazine and a military analyst, told China Daily on Wednesday.

"There is no precedent of a heavy airlifter being specifically developed into a commercial aircraft, but many users of the aircraft have experience operating heavy airlifters for civil or commercial purposes, such as airdropping aid supplies or rescuing citizens trapped overseas."

Wang expects at least 15 to 20 Y-20s will be manufactured each year after all tests are completed and said the aircraft will have a promising future in the domestic and overseas markets.

"There will be many corporate clients seeking it and I am convinced Xi'an Aircraft Industry will be able to meet the demands from both the People's Liberation Army and its corporate clients," he said, explaining that though the PLA may need as many as 300 such aircraft, this is a long-term contract.

"Even if the company only produces 20 Y-20s each year, the PLA will not purchase all of them due to expectations of more technologically advanced variants that will emerge later," Wang said. "In addition, the company will elevate its manufacturing capacity, making it easier to satisfy other buyers."

Compared with military versions, commercial derivatives of the Y-20 will remove equipment only serving military purposes such as seats for paratroops and fastening apparatus for large weapons, he said.

"The technical work is not very difficult, but you'll have to meet clients' concerns over the aircraft's profitability and maintenance cost.

"Putting it into the international market, the manufacturer must meet a variety of higher and tougher requirements in terms of environmental protection performance and airworthiness qualifications, not to mention unpredictable factors like shifts in international relations and intervention from other nations," he said.

The Y-20, with a crew of three, has a maximum payload of 66 metric tons and a maximum takeoff weight of more than 200 tons, military sources said. The high payload means the aircraft can carry the heaviest tank of the PLA — the 58-ton Type-99A2.

According to a technical evaluation by Aerospace Knowledge magazine, when fully fueled and carrying a payload of 51 tons, the Y-20 can fly as far as 5,200 kilometers, which means it is able to reach every place in Eurasia, Alaska, Australia and northern Africa.

At its maximum payload of 66 tons, the plane can fly 3,700 km, enabling it to fly from Harbin in Heilongjiang to Lhasa in the Tibet autonomous region, it added.


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