China Leading Strategic Airlift Fleet Expansion
The current global fleet of strategic airlift aircraft has its roots firmly placed in the Cold War era, with the U.S. and Russia accounting for 70% of the global fleet and have produced 93% of the strategic airlifters in service around the world today.
But over the last 20 years, requirements for global projection capabilities have gradually expanded beyond the two Cold War super powers. In China, the demand for heavy airlift has exploded.
Having operated a relatively small fleet of Il-76s in the 1990s, Beijing made repeated attempts to expand the fleet through the early 2000s—with mixed success—while the development of an indigenous strategic airlifter was pursued. Now, with the results of that developmental effort in service with the People’s Liberation Army in the form of the Xian Y-20, China possesses the fastest-growing strategic lift fleet in the world.
By the end of the decade, China will account for 18% of the strategic airlifters in service globally, up from 11% at present.