China has deployed groups of domestically developed Y-20 large cargo aircraft for transporting heavy equipment including infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled howitzers to Russia for the first time, as all Chinese forces that will participate in Russia's Kavkaz-2020 strategic military drills starting next week arrived in the country on Monday.
The long-distance aerial transport mission was done in two batches, and the second batch, featuring three Y-20s, arrived at a military airfield in Russia's Astrakhan Region on Monday, the China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Monday.
In this mission, the Y-20 crew members explored a new intercontinental air route, and Y-20s flew in a group formation for the first time, CCTV said.
This is the first time that the Y-20 has transported heavy equipment to a foreign country, the report said.
According to a separate report by CCTV on Friday, the Y-20s carried heavy equipment including the Type 04A infantry fighting vehicle and the Type 07A self-propelled howitzer.
The large-scale transport operation has enhanced the Y-20's strategic power projection capability, experts said.
Qiu Chao, the political commissar at a Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Western Theater Command aviation transport division, said in the Monday CCTV report that the flight required the troops to take into account not only complicated weather conditions and foreign airspace rules, but also the compatibility of the foreign airfield with the Y-20 in terms of logistical support standards.
Its ability to successfully accomplish this cross-border aerial transport mission smoothly demonstrates the Y-20's airworthiness and reliability, Qiu said.
The six-day Kavkaz-2020 strategic military drills will start on September 21, and the PLA troops will join exercises including mobilized defensive elimination, joint live-fire strike, multidimensional assault elimination and battlefield situation control, according to a statement the Chinese Defense Ministry released on Thursday.
Russia's Defense Ministry said the Kavkaz-2020 will be Russia's largest training event this year, the Xinhua News Agency reported.