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China's new super cargo jet takes to the skies

January 30, 2013 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • It is the first flight of China's new jumbo airfreighter
  • Aircraft's codename is Kunpeng, named after a legendary, mythical bird
  • Test flight heralds China's growing aviation and military capabilities

(CNN) -- Official Chinese media have hailed the successful test flight of China's first domestically made jumbo air freighter.

Few details were released about the flight, made Saturday, but the test indicates China's ambitions to add a heavy freighter to its capabilities and match better against traditional air powers, Russia and the United States.

READ: China lands first jet on aircraft carrier

Other large air freighters already flying include the Russian-built Ilyushin Il-76, the U.S.-made Boeing C-17 Globemaster III and, largest of them all, the Ukrainian Antonov An-225.

The four-engine Yun-20, or Transport-20, is a huge, multi-function airfreighter that can perform various long distance air transport tasks targeting cargo and passengers, the state-run Xinhua News Agency said.

READ: Jet sale boosts China's rivalry with Airbus, Boeing

"The successful maiden flight of the Y-20 is important in promoting China's economic and national defense buildup, as well as improving its emergency response and humanitarian aid abilities," the Ministry of National Defense said on its website.

The flight boosts China's presence as a global aircraft manufacturer as well as its military capabilities.

"A genuine strategic air power must possess a strong power projection capability, which is highly reliant on large aircraft, namely a strategic air freighter and a strategic bomber," said Wang Yanan, deputy editor in chief at Aerospace Knowledge magazine and a military analyst, in a China Daily report.

Late last year, a domestic order of 50 Chinese-built C919 commercial jets provided further evidence of China's growing stake in the aviation industry.

The C919 is China's answer to the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 -- a single-aisle, 168-seat, narrow-body commercial liner produced by Chinese state-run aircraft manufacturer Comac (Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China).

Little is known about the Y-20, with a China Daily report stating the aircraft is believed to have been developed by the Xi'an Aircraft Industry, a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corp. of China, the major military aircraft manufacturer.

The same report indicated the plane had a payload of around 66 metric tons, big enough to transport combat tanks.

According to China Daily, the official codename of the aircraft is Kunpeng, named after a legendary bird in Chinese mythology that can fly thousands of kilometers.

The Y-20 will continue to undergo experiments and test flights, local media reported.

READ: What's in store for China this year?

CNN's CY Xu contributed to this report.

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