CHINA'S first homegrown army transport aircraft, the Y-20, has successfully completed its maiden flight and will now undergo further experiments and test flights, according to the Ministry of National Defense.
The Y-20, or Transport-20, is a huge, multi-function freighter similar in size to the Russian IL-76 but smaller than the United States' C-17.
The giant aircraft makes China the fourth country in the world, following the US, Russia and Ukraine, to develop a jumbo airfreighter.
"The successful maiden flight of the Y-20 on Saturday is significant in promoting China's economic and national defense buildup as well as bettering emergency handling such as disaster relief and humanitarian aid," the ministry said.
The aircraft can transport military combat and support vehicles, including tanks, handling a payload of up to 66 tons. It is China's largest domestically produced military transport plane.
The Y-20 is similar to the Boeing C-17 transport plane in general layout. The US aircraft is mainly used for strategic airlift missions, transporting troops and cargo throughout the world. Its additional roles include tactical airlifts, medical evacuation and airdrop duties.
The Y-20 program is part of an effort to develop an indigenous long-range jet-powered heavy transport aircraft, a top priority in China's "Medium- and Long-Term National Science and Technology Development Program (2006-20)," according to the ministry.
The Y-20 would be a "huge boost to the intercontinental strategic projection abilities of China's air force," a Beijing-based army expert told reporters yesterday.
"The jumbo airfreighter can transport troops and armored cars to conflict areas in the shortest time to enhance the long-term combat ability of the Chinese army," the expert said.
The newly-developed jet can also be refitted to become a tanker aircraft, an early warning aircraft and even a bomber, he added.
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