New Y-9 aircraft can carry more cargo over greater distances
The People's Liberation Army Ground Force has put two Y-9 transport planes into service, a move that reflects its aspiration to build stronger strategic projection capabilities.
On Friday, a Y-9 turboprop transport aircraft was delivered to an aviation brigade of the 81st Group Army, becoming the second of its type to be fielded by the Ground Force. In December 2016, the brigade received the Ground Force's first Y-9.
The addition is expected to enhance the Ground Force's overall operational capability, according to a news release from the force.
The release also said the Y-9s' delivery indicates that the Ground Force is on a fast track to strengthen its long-range projection capabilities. It noted that the brigade has become familiar with the plane, and that the unit will send the two planes to train on plateaus and to practice tactical maneuvers.
Information previously published by the Ground Force indicates that the Y-9 can be deployed in tough environments, including in bad weather, thanks to its adaptability. It can perform a wide variety of tasks including personnel and freight transport as well as airdrops.
According to sources with knowledge of the matter, the PLA Ground Force maintains a small number of Y-7 and Y-8 transport aircraft for use by its aviation wing, but these planes have reportedly reached retirement age. As a result, the Ground Force wants to replace them with the Y-9, which is more advanced, with greater carrying capacity and longer flight range.
Developed by the State-owned aircraft giant Aviation Industry Corp of China, the Y-9 is propelled by four WJ-6C turboprop engines and has advanced avionics systems. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 65 metric tons, a maximum payload capacity of 20 tons and a top range of 5,200 kilometers, according to Jane's Defense Weekly.
The Ground Force has steadily added power to its aviation units by commissioning new aircraft over the past several years. This is not only because the Chinese military intends to transform its land forces to be leaner, more flexible, agile and capable, but also because the country's aviation industry is rapidly catching up with its Western counterparts in terms of technology and capability.
So far, all of the Ground Force's aviation units have deployed the domestically developed WZ-10 combat helicopters. Observers said the Ground Force now has at least 1,000 helicopters in active service.
Wang Yanan, editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said the Ground Force needs more heavy-lift transport helicopters and fixed-wing transport planes to improve its large-scale, long-range mobility capability.