Type: Medium tactical transport Designer／Manufacturer: AVIC Shaanxi Aircraft Industry Corporation First flight: 5 November 2010 Introduction: 2012 Operators: PLA Air Force, PLA Ground Force Crew: 4 In-flight refuelling: No
The Y-9 is a medium-sized, multi-purpose turboprop transport aircraft comparable in size and performance to the Lockheed Martin C-130J. The aircraft has been derived from the Shaanxi Y-8 (Chinese copy of the An-12 ‘Cub’), but features upgraded engines and modern avionics. As well as serving as a tactical transport, the aircraft is also used as the aerial platform for a variety of special role aircraft.
Shaanxi began to develop a radically improved variant of its Y-8 medium turboprop, initially designated Y-8F600, in 1999. Two foreign contractors, the Ukraine-based Antonov Aeronautical Scientific-Technical Complex (ASTC) and Pratt and Whitney Canada, became involved in the development programme in 2001—2002. Under a contract signed in 2002, Shaanxi and Antonov ASTC would jointly design, assemble prototypes, certify, and put into production the Y-8F600, while P&W was responsible for providing its PW150B engine to power the aircraft.
As a risk-sharing partner of the Y-8F600 project, Antonov ASTC provided Shaanxi with the results of rigidity and aerodynamic research, as well as documents on aircraft maintainability and service life. It also designed the new wing with fuel tanks and supplied the technology to build it. Antonov ASTC also shared its technical data and experience with Shaanxi, and was involved in the test of the aircraft.
In addition to the tactical transport, Shaanxi also developed the Y-8F600 into an aerial platform for various special role aircraft such as AEW&C and maritime patrol, internally known as the “Category-III Platform”. The terms of Category-I and -II platforms were used to refer to the aerial platforms developed from the partially-pressurised Y-8 and fully-pressurised Y-8C airframes respectively. Compared with its predecessors, the Y-8F600 would provide a much more capable platform due to its improvements in avionics, powerplant, and fuselage design.
It appeared that the “Category-III Platform” took priority over the tactical transport, and the aircraft in the form of the KJ-200 AEW&C made maiden flight successfully on 14 January 2005. However, the #2 prototype of the KJ-200 crash during a flight test on 3 June 2006, resulting the loss of both aircraft and its onboard crew and test engineers. This resulted in a major setback in the project and the development was only resumed a year later, after some redesign to the airframe including a pair of vertical planes attached to the tips of its horizontal tailfins.
The development of the tactical transport variant, first renamed Y-8X and then Y-9, finally began in 2008 after two years of delays to give priority to the “Category-III Platform” development. Compared with the earlier Y-8F600/Category-III Platform”, the Y-9 features all indigenous avionics and pwerplant, replacing the original Canadian P&W PB150B turboprop engine and British Dodi R-408 all-composite six-blade propeller with the indigenous WJ-6C (Wojian-6C) turboprop engine and JL-4C six-blade propeller. Compared with the Y-8C, the maximum payload increased from 20 t to 25 t. When taking off from high-altitude airfields in Tibet, the maximum payload increased from 5 t to 15 t. The Y-9 made first flight on 5 November 2010 and entered operational service with the PLA in 2012.
The Y-9 has a similar aerodynamic layout to the Y-8, with high-mounted wings and four turboprop engines mounted under the wing’s leading edge. The rear cargo door also serves as a ramp to allow quick load/unload of cargoes. The tail flats and fin are mounted high, with additional small vertical stabilisers installed on the tailplanes. The aircraft has a twin-wheeled nose landing gear and two four-wheeled main landing gears. It is flown by a four-man crew, including two pilots, a flight engineer and a loadmaster.
The Y-9 has a maximum take-off weight of 65 t. Its cargo bay is 16.2 m in length, 3.2 m in width, and 2.3 m in height, with an internal volume of 155 cubic metres. It can carry a variety of military vehicles, cargo containers, pallets, and personnel, with a maximum cargo load of 20 t. The aircraft is designed to carry up to 98 armed paratroopers, or nine international standard pallets of 108” X 88”, or eight 125” X 96” pallets. The cargo bay floor is fitted with cargo handling rollers and tie-down rings.
In addition to radio communication and navigation systems, the Y-9 features a ‘glass’ cockpit with coloured multifunctional displays (MFD)and other modern avionics including datalink, flight management and control, ground proximity warning and collision avoidance systems. An electro-optical turret containing forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and TV sensors is mounted under the fuselage for day/night, all-weather operation.
The original Y-8F600 design was powered by four P&W PB150B turboprop engines with all-composite six-bladed R-408 propeller system developed by the British company Dodi, offering a maximum take-off weight of 65 t. This arrangement offers improved take-off performance at “hot and high” airports and high altitude cruise performance, extended engine service lives, and lower engine operating and maintenance costs. In addition, noise levels will be reduced and meet stringent airport noise restrictions. On the transport variant Y-9, they were replaced by four indigenous 5,100 hp WJ-6C (Wojian-6C) turboprop engines and six-bladed JL-4 propellers.
Empty weight: 39 t. Max take-off weight: 65 t. Overloading take-off weight: 81 t. Fuel capacity: 23 t. Max payload: (normal) 25 t; (maximum) 30 t. Max level speed: 570 km/h. Cruising speed: 550 km/h. Cruising altitude: 7,800 m. Service ceiling: 10,100 m. Range: 4,200 km. Take-off/landing distance: 1,350 m.