The Chinese military is currently endorsing development of a plethora of military systems from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and submarines to various small arms and aircraft. For the latter category comes the Shaanxi "Y-9", intended as a medium-class, high-wing, short-field military transport in the same vein as the prolific American Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" transport family. The Y-9 has been accepted into service with the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and is currently undergoing serial production (2014). At its core, the Y-9 is a lengthened derivative of the earlier Y-8 series of 1980s vintage though the offering increases performance allowing for improved operational ranges and better cargo-hauling capacity.
The Y-9 product was evolved from the Y-8 under the "Y-8X" designation so its general form and function remain faithful to the earlier model series. Development is thought to have started around 2001 with the product intended as a direct successor to the existing, yet limited and aging, Y-8 line. The high-wing layout and four-engine prop configuration was retained as was the streamlined fuselage and single-finned tail unit. A loading ramp and doors allow access to the cargo hold at the base of the tail, a feature common to most any cargo-hauler in military service today. The overall appearance of the aircraft is no doubt inspired by the Chinese-Soviet interactions of the Cold War decades - the Y-8 in fact being developed from the original Soviet Antonov An-12 "Cub" transport-minded family.
The Y-9 features 4 x Zhuzhou WoJiang-6C turboprop engines developing 5,100 shaft horsepower each while driving six-blade composite propellers. Performance includes cruising speeds nearing 405 miles per hour, a ferry range out to 7,800 kilometers, and a service ceiling up to 34,120 feet.
A model of the Y-9 was formally showcased in 2005 at the International Aviation Expo (Beijing) with the goal to have serial manufacture underway in 2009. However, technological issues rendered this timeline moot and the type was delayed from a first flight until November of 2010. Service entry for the line is thought to have occurred with the PLAAF sometime during 2012.
Shaanxi Aircraft Corporation (part of Aviation Industry Corporation of China = AVIC) has also built local Chinese copies of the Soviet Antonov An-2 and An-24 products proving that large, multi-engined military transport experience is in its bloodline. It is also participating in the development of the Xian Y-20 strategic airlifter heavy transport.
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