Beijing: Close on the heels of developing force multipliers like aircraft carrier and stealth fighters, China is making a large military transport plane apparently to move troops and supplies in greater numbers to distant places.
"We are developing a large aircraft to improve the capability of air transport" of the People`s Liberation Army (PLA), Yang Yujun, a spokesman of the Defence Ministry, was quoted as saying in the official media here.
The plane is being developed as part of the military modernisation drive, as well as to meet the demands of disaster relief work and humanitarian aid in emergency situations, he said.
Large military transport aircraft are generally defined in China as military transport planes with a maximum takeoff weight of about 200 tonnes and 50 tonnes of payload capacity.
Yang did not give a detailed timeline for the development of the plane, only saying that "the research and development of the large transport aircraft is going forward as planned," state-run Global Times reported.
The first batch of photos of the "Y-20" was uploaded to the military forum cjdby.Net on Christmas Day.
"The photos are small and blurring, but they seem to be authentic," the daily quoted Daniel Tong, a defence observer, as saying.
"The layout of the Y-20 bears some resemblance to the US C-17 and Russian Il-76 aircraft. Judging from the nacelle, the engines appeared to be from Russia, though a domestic engine of the same class is being developed," he said.
"China`s aerial strategic delivery capability heavily depends on imported IL-76, the number of which is limited. If the Y-20 programme goes well, it will lessen and eventually end this dependence," he said, adding that the Y-20 looks fatter than the IL-76 and probably can carry a larger payload.
China, in the recent years, made steady advances with development of high-tech military equipment as it has restrictive access to defence technology of US, EU and Russia.
This year, it launched its refurbished first aircraft carrier, along with J-15, a fighter plane which would be deployed on the carrier. It also stated to have developed J-30, a stealth bomber resembling US version.
Some of the versions were displayed at the recent annual airshow at Chinese city of Zhuhai.
Defence analysts say that much of Chinese defence technology is only known to the Chinese Defence personnel and not tested or showed on international platforms.