November 19, 2009:
China has announced that it will soon show off a domestically designed heavy (weighing more than 200 tons) military transport. Pictures of the new Chinese transport indicate a design similar to the Russian Il-76 (which the Chinese have been using for a long time.) China also has another 30 Il-76s on order, but has been unhappy with the costs. Doing a knock off of the Il-76 would not be unusual, as China has been copying Russian aircraft designs for decades. The Chinese aircraft would probably aspire to the more recent U.S. C-17, especially in terms of electronics and fuel efficiency.
Earlier this year, China revealed that it had revived its effort to build a C-130J class transport. The Chinese Y-9 is a 77 ton Chinese designed aircraft that is back in development, after having been dormant for some time. Powered by four turboprops, it can carry 25 tons (or nine 108x88 inch pallets, or 132 paratroopers.) It will have a crew of four, a cruise speed of 650 kilometers an hour, and has a max ferry range of 7,800 kilometers. The initial Y-9 design effort began in 2001, but the manufacturer ran into personnel and quality control problems, and put the effort on hold after a few years.
The Y-9 is basically a stretched version of the 61 ton Y-8F-200, which is, in turn, a Chinese copy, and upgrade, of the Russian An-12. Like the U.S. C-130, the An-12 was developed in the 1950s, and is still used by civilian cargo haulers all over the world. Some 1,200 An-12s were built (between 1957-73), compared to about a hundred 100 Y-8s (which began production in 1981). Nearly 2,300 C-130s have been built so far.
China wants to reduce its dependence on Russia for transport aircraft, and has noted the success of the latest version of the C-130, the C-130J (a 79 ton aircraft with a crew of three, that can carry 33 tons of cargo, 8 pallets or 92 paratroopers.) The C-130J has a cruise speed of 644 kilometers an hour and max ferry range of 7,400 kilometers.