posted on Jan, 6 2013 @ 07:51 PM
A week after the publication of blurry photographs depicting what appears to be China’s first long-range jet transport, Danger Room has obtained
satellite imagery of the new plane at an airfield in central China.
The images, acquired by the GeoEye 1 and IKONOS spacecraft — both belonging to commercial satellite operator GeoEye headquartered in Washington,
D.C. — corroborate the general layout of the Xian Aircraft Corporation Y-20, the existence of which has been confirmed by Beijing. They also
underscore the emerging consensus among Western experts that the Y-20, while outwardly impressive, could lack the performance of even much older
American, Russian and European transports.
The IKONOS image (below) is dated Dec. 25. It shows the Y-20 outside a large hangar at Yanliang airfield, home of the People’s Liberation Army Air
Force’s test establishment. The base is crowded with examples of the PLAAF’s other main transports, including Y-8 medium airlifters and,
apparently, tanker versions of the aged H-6 bomber — both types of which could in theory be replaced by the Y-20, ostensibly giving China the same
global military reach the U.S. and other advanced nations have enjoyed for half a century.
The GeoEye 1 photo from Jan. 1 (above) depicts the new transport, which isn’t known to have flown yet, on one of Yanliang’s runways, surrounded by
people and vehicles. News reports have claimed the Y-20 is currently undergoing runway taxi tests in preparation for its eventual first flight.