CHINA / MILITARY
China's Y-20 cargo aircraft joins 1st helicopter assault drill, celebrates 5th in-service anniversary
Published: Jul 06, 2021 11:33 PM
Pilots and crew members assigned to an aviation division under the PLA Western Theater Command get ready for a flight training mission on January 4, 2021. (eng.chianmil.com.cn/Photo by Liu Shu)

Pilots and crew members assigned to an aviation division under the PLA Western Theater Command get ready for a flight training mission on January 4, 2021. (eng.chianmil.com.cn/Photo by Liu Shu)



The Y-20 large transport aircraft on Tuesday celebrated its fifth year in service with the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force and announced its participation in a live-fire joint exercise for the first time with attack helicopters from the Army of the PLA Xinjiang Military Command. 

This approach can rapidly deploy helicopters to frontlines and maximize their capabilities, and the Y-20 will carry out more missions with additional tactics as it has become technically mature after five years, experts said on Tuesday, expecting the aircraft to continue to be mass produced, get domestically developed engines and spawn variants like aerial tankers or early warning aircraft.

An aviation brigade affiliated with the PLA Xinjiang Military Command Army recently held a live-fire, cross-day-and-night exercise jointly with the Air Force, special operations forces and electronic countermeasures units, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Tuesday.

As a group of Z-10 and other types of helicopters took off from an airfield in Northwest China and arrived at a designated area after eight hours, Y-20 and Y-9 transport aircraft carried ground logistics support units also to the mission region. The helicopters were able to receive fuel and ammunition supplies and start their assault training immediately.

This is the first time the Y-20 has been featured in such an exercise, CCTV said.

In rapid deployment missions, helicopters need to mobilize to frontlines very fast, and only transport aircraft like the Y-20 can keep up with their speed and deliver logistics support, including supplies and personnel, to their new location in time, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

The transport aircraft can land on a nearby airfield or conduct airdrops, and this support will help maximize the combat capabilities of the helicopters, Wei said.

Tuesday is also the fifth anniversary of the Y-20's commissioning into the PLA Air Force, as the domestically developed cargo plane grew from a new aircraft to a mature one by receiving military parade inspections, conducting training exercises, participating in the domestic then international COVID-19 pandemic fight and holding transport missions to foreign countries.

Observers said that the Y-20 will continue to develop more tactics and participate in missions, and see further developments.

The Y-20 will get domestically developed engines and be produced in large numbers, Wei predicted, noting that different types of special mission aircraft, like aerial tankers or early warning aircraft, could also be developed based on the Y-20.


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