Dec 5, 2016 | By Tess

The Sri Lankan government has just announced that it is thinking about purchasing the Chinese-made Xian Y-20 aircraft to be used as a combination military and transport plane. The Xian Y-20, the largest military aircraft in production, is also the first cargo aircraft to be made with 3D printing technology. The sale could make Sri Lanka the first country that the Xian Y-20 aircraft will be exported to.

The Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, recently made the announcement about the purchase, and is quoted as saying the Chinese Xian Y-20 planes are “good workhorses.” Sri Lanka, which currently has a fleet of Chinese transport planes including the Harbin Y-12, Xian MA60, and Shaanxi Y-8, is hoping to incorporate the Xian Y-20 for both military and transport purposes.

As Wickremesinghe stated: “I have travelled around in some of the Chinese transport planes we have…Some people have raised questions about their quality but I have always said, ‘Look: as far as I am concerned, I will always underwrite Chinese military transport planes.’ We will buy two more.”

Sri Lanka, which is currently not at war, is not in dire need of military aircraft, but is reportedly looking for versatile transport and cargo planes that could serve a military function if the need arises. Its current Air Force consists of aged Russian and Israeli bomber jets, which will need to be replaced. Though it seems like the Sri Lankan government is leaning heavily towards buying the Xian Y-20 from China, there are other offers on the table. "China, India, Sweden and Russia have made offers," Wickremesinghe said. "we are studying them."

3D printing played an important role in the development of the Xian Y-20 as it allowed for the manufacturing company to speed up turn-around times for prototypes and also lowered costs significantly. The aircraft can reportedly hold 40 to 73 short tons of cargo, and costs about $160 million per plane.

According to a source, if Sri Lanka purchases the Xian Y-20, the island nation could also use the planes for a domestic airline operated by the Sri Lankan Air Force. If established, the domestic airline would be the first in Sri Lanka, despite a number of airports and small airfields which were used by the British in WWII.

Whether the 3D printed Chinese aircraft will be brought into Sri Lanka is not definite, but if the deal does come to fruition, the sale could mark a significant step for the Sri Lankan Air Force.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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gregha wrote at 12/6/2016 12:37:55 PM:

What exactly is '3d printed' in this aircraft? This statement seems like hyperbole to me.

berto wrote at 12/5/2016 10:11:43 PM:

What parts are 3d printed?

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