China has flown its Y-20 military transport aircraft with an indigenously made WS-20 engine replacing a Russian origin D-30 powerplant.
The development has not been confirmed by the authorities. A photo circulating on Chinese and foreign social media on Saturday allegedly shows the aircraft equipped with four WS-20 engines in a test flight.
Earlier this month, manufacturer of the Y-20, AVIC-owned Xi'an Aircraft Industry released a photo that showed a turbofan engine with a high bypass ratio that had never been seen before, Chinese media reported.
Song Xinzhi, a military expert told CCTV that the Chinese engine is much larger in diameter than the Russian D-30. It can provide more powerful thrust, uses less fuel, and enables the Y-20 to take-off and land at airfields with shorter runways.
Fitted with new home-grown engines, the Y-20 could become capable of long-range or intercontinental flight while carrying heavy equipment like main battle tanks without stopping at a transit airfield for refuelling.
“The eventual use of the WS-20 engine on the Y-20 will give the aircraft a longer operational range and a larger cargo capacity thanks to its higher bypass ratio and greater thrust,” a military expert was quoted as saying by Global Times on Sunday.
In Future, the WS-20 engine may power Y-20 aerial tanker variant, as well as other planned versions: Y-20 aerial early warning aircraft and Y-20 electronic warfare planes. The new tanker variant reportedly conducted aerial refueling of a J-20 stealth jet recently.