China's transport, tanker & heavy lift aircraft


Senior Member
Staff member
Moderator - World Affairs
Registered Member
PLA Ground Force do have their own paratroopers. Most of the time they practised with their own helicopters since they lack fixed wing aircraft. Joint operation with PLAAF fixed wing transport plane have been carried out from time to time.

Since the parachuting qualification is uncommon in PLAGF, it is correct to say that they are special forces. However, several photos from the past years showed that they also used regular helmets.
When it comes to major nations like China, the US, or Russia, paratrooper units are typically large division-sized or regiment sized elements. The PLAGF doesn’t have dedicated paratrooper units, but they do have airborne-qualified personal like those in the pictures. Those personal are always SOF/recon units. As for the helmet, while that is true, based on what I have seen, any units that deploy high cut helmets en masse are SOF/recon.


Registered Member
Other than ferrying troops, equipment and being an aerial refueling tanker, can the Y-20 be modified to carry large-sized drones on top of its fuselage?

Right now, any drones that require mid-air launch, i.e. WZ-8 requires itself to be fitted underneath modified H-6K/M/N bombers:

However, carrying any drone underneath the H-6K/M/N means that the dimension of said craft will be severely limited. Coupled with the already limited payload capacity of the original, unmodified H-6K/M/Ns (9-12 tons), it will become very challenging (if not outright impossible) for the H-6K/M/Ns to carry any craft that is larger and/or heavier than the WZ-8.

Say, if the PLAAF needs a successor (let's call it WZ-18) to the WZ-10 that can fly faster (~Mach 8-9), longer endurance to cover larger areas of the theater of war (beyond the Second Island Chain and perhaps even up against the Third Island Chain) and greater maneuverability to dodge enemy interception - WZ-18 would definitely be significantly bigger than WZ-8.

Let's assume that the WZ-18 is 2x or 3x the size and weight of the current WZ-8.

Since China already has multiple Y-20s in active service with the PLAAF (and finally entering serial production with the Y-20B), would it be possible (and viable) to modify at least a couple of them (let's call these modified versions as Y-20M) that would act as transporter-launcher platforms for the WZ-18 and larger drones of the future?

Theoretically speaking, with their larger dimension and significantly greater payload than the H-6K/M/Ns, these modified Y-20Ms certainly can carry (and launch) drones like the WZ-8, plus future drones that are larger and heavier like the hypothetical WZ-18.

In fact, much larger crafts have been carried onboard large aircrafts, such as the 2 specially-modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircrafts (SCAs).

The Space Shuttle has also been launched (unpowered) from the SCAs during free flight glide tests, of which the Space Shuttle will then glide to land at nearby Edward Air Force Base, as shown below:

Furthermore, before the Boeing 747 SCA is realized, one of the contenders for the SCA is the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy large airlifter. Here, I believe that the drama series "For All Mankind" illustrated well on how a modified C-5 Galaxy could hypothetically launch a (fictional) space shuttle Pathfinder:

Hence, if the Boeing 747 and (supposedly) Galaxy C-5 are able to launch aircrafts and spacecrafts as large and as heavy as the Space Shuttle (albeit with considerable limitations), a medium-sized modified airlifter like the Y-20M shouldn't have problems launching drones that are similar in size and/or larger than the WZ-8.

Last but not least - If the hypothetical Y-20M can become a success at carrying and launching WZ-8 and larger drones, who knows if the payload option can be expanded to include the Chinese version of the X-37B...


A J-16 being refueled by a YY-20 tanker.