Each Xi’an Y-20 strategic airlifter can carry two of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Type 15 light tanks or a Type 99A main battle tank (MBT) over distances of 7,800km, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported on 8 April.
Local reports indicate that the domestically manufactured Y-20 airlifter can carry a maximum payload of around 66 tonnes in its 20m long and 4m wide cargo hold.
Type 15 light tanks
The Type 15 is the latest light tank developed by the China North Industries Group Corporation (NORINCO) and entered PLA service in December 2018. The tank is armed with a 105mm main gun with an autoloader and 38 ready-to-fire rounds, and has a baseline combat weight of 33 tonnes although this increases to 36 tonnes when fitted with additional protection.
According to Chinese-language sources, the Type 15 measures 9.2m long (including main gun), 3.3m wide, and 2.5m tall. It is operated by a crew of three and powered by a 1,000hp diesel engine, which provides a high power-to-weight ratio that enables the tank to operate more effectively in higher altitudes where thin air often impacts on engine performance.
The Type 15 made its public debut at the National Day military parade on 1 October 2019 in Beijing, and the PLA deployed a fleet of these light tanks in exercises in the plateaus of the Tibet Autonomous Region in southwest China in January 2020.
Type 99A Main Battle Tank
In contrast, the Type 99A MBT is the PLA’s principal land warfare platform with a maximum combat weight of approximately 55 tonnes and armed with a 125mm smoothbore gun and a 42-round magazine. An autoloader enables its crew complement to be reduced to three persons, while a 1,500hp 150HB diesel engine enables it to traverse at road speeds of up to 75km/h and cross-country speeds of up to 65km/h.
With the ability to carry either two light or one heavy tank, the Y-20 enables PLA planners to rapidly project protected firepower across continental distances.
by Jr Ng