China’s Y-20 strategic transport aircraft is finally getting its long-awaited domestically developed engines, which recently made their first public appearance, multiple media reports speculated recently. The new engines are expected to boost the Y-20’s key performances including range and cargo capacity, in addition to reducing reliance on imported engines. Despite the new development hasn’t been officially confirmed, several signs point to key progress being made in the WS-20 engine over the past weeks, according to media reports.
Earlier this month, the Xi’an Aircraft Industry (Group) Company Ltd under the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, the maker of the Y-20, released a photo that showed a turbofan engine with a high bypass ratio that had never been seen before. This unidentified engine is very likely China’s domestically developed WS-20, and if this speculation is true, it is the first time the WS-20 has made a public appearance in an official media source.
Allegedly the first Y-20B (?) powered by four indigenous WS-20 high-bypass turbofan engines has made its maiden flight (or was at least spotted for the first time). 😮
(Image via @燃烧的哈尔科夫 from Weibo) pic.twitter.com/lC80ogIK83
— @Rupprecht_A (@RupprechtDeino) November 21, 2020
In a recent China Central Television (CCTV) military program, Chinese military experts also revealed some new information on the WS-20. The report, quoting military expert Song Xinzhi, said that compared with the D-30, the Russian engine currently being used on the Y-20, the Chinese engine is much larger in diameter, and can provide more powerful thrust, uses less fuel, and enables the Y-20 to take off and land at airfields with shorter runways. Speculation has it that the Y-20 has already begun to switch to the new engines.
The Xi’an Y-20 is a large military transport aircraft. The project is being developed by Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation and was officially launched in 2006. The official codename of the aircraft is Kunpeng (after the mythical bird that can fly for thousands of miles described in the ancient Chinese Taoist classic Zhuangzi). However, within the Chinese aviation industry itself, the aircraft is more commonly known by its nickname Chubby Girl (because its fuselage is much wider compared to other Chinese aircraft previously developed in China.