Africa Aerospace & Defence 2018

New look for an old veteran [AAD18D2]

20 September 2018

Being displayed on the CATIC stand is a model of the Shaanxi Y-9E, a four-engined transport. The aircraft is the latest iteration of a family of aircraft that began with the Antonov An-12 'Cub', which first flew in 1957.

Y-9 transport aircraft are now in service with the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), and the Y-9E is a version tailored for export.

Myanmar is believed to be the first customer, ordering an aircraft in November 2017.

China's association with the An-12 goes back to the 1960s, when a few aircraft were acquired from the Soviet Union along with a licence for production. However, the Sino-Soviet split led to the Soviets withdrawing assistance, so a reverse-engineering programme was initiated by the Xian Aircraft Company. The first flew in February 1974, after which production and further development was transferred to Shaanxi.

In around 2001, Shaanxi began development of a new model, initially designated Y-8X, before being deemed sufficiently different to receive the Y-9 designation. The relationship between Y-8 and Y-9 can be likened to that between the first-generation C-130 and the C-130J. In most ways similar to the final Y-8 production version, the Y-9 introduced a fuselage stretched to 36.06m in length, uprated FWJ6C engines driving JL-4 propellers with six composite blades, and a six-screen 'glass' flight deck. Other changes include small endplates on the tailplanes for extra stability.

The first Y-9 took to the air at Shaanxi on 5 November 2010. In 2012, PLAAF operations began, but it was not until December 2017 that it was declared fully operational.

In 2016, the People's Liberation Army Aviation began to use the type. The Y-9 has also been used as a platform for special-mission variants, including the KJ-500 airborne early warning aircraft with dorsally mounted radome. Other versions have been developed for electronic warfare, electronic intelligence-gathering and psychological warfare.

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