PLAAF airlifter makes European public debut in Austria
The first appearance of an in-service aircraft from China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) at a Western airshow occurred during AirPower 22 at Zeltweg, Austria, on Friday 2-Saturday 3 September, with the presence of a Xi’an Y-20 airlifter.
The aircraft, carrying serial 20241 and construction number 0051, arrived at Zeltweg on Tuesday 30 August, following a flight of more than 10 hours from China. In command was PLAAF Maj Gen Liu Wenli, the first woman to attain this rank in the modern-day Chinese military. She also flew the aircraft directly home on Monday 5 September.
This is the second time the four-jet Y-20 has been seen in Europe, the first having occurred during April 2022 when six examples landed at Nikola Tesla Airport in the Serbian capital Belgrade in order to deliver Chinese-made weaponry. The type has also conducted other international missions, such as involvement in disaster relief efforts following the January 2022 volcano in Tonga and the Pakistan floods during August, illustrating how the Y-20 is increasingly being used to demonstrate China’s strategic airlift capabilities on the global stage.
It was, perhaps, notable how the PLAAF’s European airshow debut occurred in a neutral, non-NATO country; whether the type is likely to be seen more widely within the continent in future remains to be seen. Certainly, the prospect of export sales is being touted.