TAIPEI - The Chinese-language People's Daily newspaper has reported that China's first strategic airlifter, the Y-20 military cargo aircraft, will begin initial operational capability (IOC) this year.

In an article published on Feb. 29, the People's Daily quoted local military experts indicating that since the Y-20s first flight in 2013 the aircraft had undergone test flights without "bottlenecks."

Built by the Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation, the Y-20 has been dubbed the Kunpeng, after a Chinese mythological fish-bird of enormous size capable of flying long distances. The Daily reported that the aircraft has also earned another nickname due to its wide fuselage, "Chubby Girl."

A US defense industry analyst, speaking on background, said that the aircraft was expected to enter IOC at an airbase close to the production facility near Xian in Shaanxi Province sometime this year or early 2017. The Y-20 will not enter full operational capability for a few more years, he said, and then full rate production should commence.

The Y-20 is a four-engine turbofan transport capable of 66,000-ton payloads. The aircraft will fulfill the Chinese military's requirement for a heavy military transport, but the aircraft also has the potential of being converted into a maritime patrol and early warning platform, said the Daily.

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