Paris Air Show

Chinese Transport Goes on Sale

 - June 20, 2017, 3:44 AM
Form follows function: The Shaanxi Y-9E resembles the Lockheed Martin C-130 and fulfills the same role.

CATIC is displaying a model of the Shaanxi Y-9E for the first time outside China. The four-engine transport is in service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, and is now being promoted to international customers. The Y-9E is a version of the PLAAF aircraft tailored for export that was first revealed in model form at the Zhuhai air show last November. Myanmar is believed to have placed an order for one Y-9E that month.

Development of what became the Y-9 began around 2001 under the initial designation of Y-8X. The aircraft is an outgrowth of the Shaanxi Y-8, a derivative of the Antonov An-12 that Shaanxi has been building and improving for many years. Generally similar to the final Y-8 production version, the Y-9 has a fuselage stretched to 36.06 m (118 ft, 4 in), uprated FWJ6C engines driving JL-4 propellers with six composite blades, and a six-screen EFIS “glass” flight deck. Other changes include small endplates on the tailplanes for additional directional stability, and most are equipped with an electro-optical/infrared turret under the nose for bad weather/low level operations. In many ways the relationship between Y-8 and Y-9 can be likened to that between the first-generation C-130 and the C-130J.

After a stop-start development the first Y-9 flew on November 5, 2010, the type entering PLAAF service in 2012. The PLA Army began operating the type in December 2016. A number of special-mission versions have emerged, including the KJ-500 airborne early warning aircraft with dorsally mounted radome, and variants for electronic warfare, intelligence-gathering and psychological warfare. CATIC is highlighting the ease with which the Y-9E can be modified for such missions.

In the meantime, Shaanxi is working on a new transport aircraft known as the Y-30. Models show an aircraft with a T-tail that closely resembles the Airbus A400M, but the Y-30 is smaller. Development of this aircraft is driven by the need for an aircraft with a larger cargo hold than the Y-9 that is better suited to carrying China’s new-generation of military vehicles.