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Half A Dozen Chinese Y-20 Cargo Jets Popped Up Over Europe Last Night

beijingwalker

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Half A Dozen Chinese Y-20 Cargo Jets Popped Up Over Europe Last Night​

The flight of Y-20 transports reportedly delivered weaponry to Serbia but also served as a demonstration of China's growing global reach.

BY STETSON PAYNE AND TYLER ROGOWAY
APRIL 9, 2022

Y-20-Serbia.jpg


Flight trackers got an interesting surprise late Friday night when six People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Y-20 cargo planes appeared heading west in Turkish airspace towards Serbia.

Open-source aircraft tracker Evergreen Intel told The War Zone fellow tracker @ameliairheart first spotted the flights just north of Istanbul, Turkey.

“This was my cue to bring up both Flightradar24 and my ADSBexchange selective database that includes Y-20A/U known hex codes,” Evergreen Intel told The War Zone. “Sure enough, the different apps showed other Y-20s along the same flight route, spaced out about 100km apart stretching from Istanbul all the way to almost the Georgian border.”

“This was unique in that it was in the early hours and with so many Y-20s together, all using MLAT (multilateration). Given that it was said to be a scheduled weapons delivery, this makes sense. Similar NATO deliveries to Poland or Ukraine by military transports have used MLAT before.”



The Chinese cargo jets landed at Nikola Tesla International Airport in the capital of Belgrade, with plane watchers catching their Chinese markings on final approach and on the tarmac. Observers noted at least some of the planes had the covers for their chaff and flare countermeasures systems removed. It looks very much like they may have been equipped with live countermeasures, which would be anticipatory of some sort of potential threat. What that threat would have been isn't clear.



Reports later emerged that the planes delivered HQ-22 surface-to-air missile systems to the Serbian military. The Washington Post reported on U.S. government warnings to Belgrade about the purchase in 2020. Serbia reportedly chose the HQ-22 over its approximate Russian counterpart, the S-300, in a surprise move. The cost of the systems could have been a major factor, though.

The Y-20s’ appearance raised eyebrows because they flew en masse as opposed to a series of single-aircraft flights. The Y-20's presence in Europe in any numbers is also still a fairly new development.

These cargo planes are relatively new to the PLAAF inventory, having only entered service in 2016. We wrote about their first use in a crisis as part of the response to the initial COVID-19 outbreaks in Wuhan back in early 2020. Since then, they have been spreading their operational footprint, including flying to Europe, but not in larger numbers like this operation. It’s quite probable that the PLAAF used this delivery as a sort of demonstration of its own airlift capability given NATO’s ongoing efforts to ferry supplies and materiel to Ukraine’s war effort.

Loosely similar in basic design and role to the U.S. Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III, future production Y-20 aircraft will use the locally-produced WS-20 turbofan engine in lieu of Russian Oloviev D-30 jet engines. Going to this higher-bypass turbofan should also enhance the performance of the Y-20 overall.

The airframe and a notable aerial refueling variant made appearances in Malaysian airspace in the South China Sea and Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in 2021. The Y-20U tanker aircraft reportedly supported more than two dozen PLAAF aircraft in the November 28 flight through the Taiwan ADIZ we wrote about at the time. You can read our coverage of that incursion here.

According to Evergreen Intel, they have tracked 43 known Y-20A/U airframes, including at least 7 test airframes. This is just what has been observed using open sources, the actual fleet size is likely significantly larger. In late 2019, we counted 20 Y-20 airframes in Xi’an, where they are produced, alone.

Whether a convenient demonstration of global reach or not, the mission was not routine. This large-scale sortie to deliver military equipment to Belgrade is yet another confirmation of the strategic airlift capability the PLAAF has obtained via its burgeoning Y-20 fleet, as well as an expanding operational knowledge as to how to put it to use.

Aside from the Y-20's expanded presence over Europe, the fact that a higher-end Chinese air defense system will be operating in Europe is another issue that will likely come to the chagrin of Serbia's neighbors.

 

Ali_Baba

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I guess this is a solved issue - but what certification did the Y-20 get that allows it to fly in western airspace?

Does the EU recognise Chinese standards automatically - or was there a test/verification process or sharing of data to get approval ?

Curious..
 

beijingwalker

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Chinese Air Force (PLAAF) Xian Y-20 Landing and Takeoff at Belgrade Airport​

Chinese Air Force`s second visit to Belgrade Airport in two days, extremely rare to see these planes anywhere outside China! After delivering military equipment to Batajnica Air Base, 3 of 6 planes that landed there transfered to Belgrade Airport for refueling before heading back to Urumqi, China.

China missiles in Europe now: Six Y-20 aircrafts carry them to Serbia! Wing Loong 2F drones coming​

 
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Trailer23

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I guess this is a solved issue - but what certification did the Y-20 get that allows it to fly in western airspace?

Does the EU recognise Chinese standards automatically - or was there a test/verification process or sharing of data to get approval ?

Curious..
I'm not sure if Serbia is part of the EU to begin with...
 

beijingwalker

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Spotting of six Y-20 cargo planes in Serbia 'displays China's strategic transport capabilities'

Published: Apr 10, 2022 06:49 PM
A fleet of six Y-20 cargo planes of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force was reportedly spotted in Serbia on Saturday, with observers saying on Sunday that it could be the largest overseas operation by the Chinese domestically developed large transport plane yet, displaying the country's strategic transport capabilities.

Citing commercial flight trackers, US news website thedrive.com reported on Saturday that the six Y-20 aircraft were first spotted heading west in Turkish airspace late Friday night, and later local residents took photos of the Y-20s, which allegedly landed in Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade, Serbia. The aircraft later flew over the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey again on their way back to China.

China has not made an official announcement about the mission as of press time, but the Global Times learned that the Y-20s indeed have carried out such a flight.

A whopping six Y-20 large transport aircraft could mark an unprecedented overseas operation, Chinese military observers said.

It is a new record that an overseas mission features six Y-20s, and it is also very rare to see so many Y-20s being deployed at the same time, Fu Qianshao, a Chinese military aviation expert, told the Global Times on Sunday.

The mission reflects a significant improvement in the PLA Air Force's long-range strategic transport capabilities, as well as the large transport aircraft's logistics support and maintenance capabilities in intercontinental flights, Fu said.

It is more difficult to organize a large fleet featuring six Y-20s compared with only one or two of the aircraft, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Sunday.

China has used the Y-20 for several missions to Europe in the past. For example, the PLA used a Y-20 to carry 105 members of the PLA honor guard to join the Russian Victory Day parade held in Moscow in June 2020.


Unlike just flying to Russia, it would need the Y-20s to fly through several other countries in order to reach Serbia from China, so China must have had much coordination and communication with these countries and gained their authorization in order to realize the flight, Song said.

The mission of the Y-20s to Serbia remains unknown, with thedrive.com speculating that the aircraft could be delivering the FK-3, the export version of the Chinese HQ-22 surface-to-air missile system, to Serbia.

Analysts told the Global Times that the cargo must be large and heavy to require as many as six Y-20s.

 
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Beast

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Sure - but i am curious on the international certification of planes and how they get permissions to fly over airspace.
For military plane, there is no such restriction based on certification. All based on countries to countries diplomacy.
 

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