Tu-204-120CE delivered to the CFTE at Xian-Yanglian

Deino

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A few days ago there was much speculation about a Tu-204C spotted recently at the CFTE in Yanglian and at least by now it is (IMO) confirmed not fitted with a refueling boom as suggested at first. Anyway the question remains … is it only a testbed or what other possible purpose could this new bird have at the CFTE and how likely do You see the possibility of the Tu-204 entering PLAAF service at a larger scale !?!

First let us stick to the facts:


The aircraft in question is B-2871 China Flight Test Establishment Tupolev Tu-204-120CE – cn. 1450743664030 powered by RR RB211-535E4B

As such it was originally RA-64030 operated by the Tupolev Design Bureau (08-1999) … alter it was operated by “Air China Cargo” (27-10-2008) and You still can see the former AC-logo on the tail … after that it had been in storage at Tianjin and was finally delivered to the CFTE at Yanliang in May 2011.

via http://www.planespotters.net/Production_List/Tupolev/Tu-204/1450743664030,B-2871-Air-China-Cargo.php

As such … I think the Tu-204 would have been (years ago) a good replacement for the Tu-154MD or as an aircraft for other special roles (radar testbed, EW, ELINT/SIGINT, …) ut now with the availability of more efficient aircraft like the Airbus A.320-series I question if it is reasonable to operate an aircraft which is built only in small numbers (still in production ??)

What do You think ?

Deino ???
 

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It could *simply* have been acquired as a low cost test-bed for use by CFTE, entirely possible they picked it up for peanuts and it will get used for a variety roles. There are some pretty ancient test-beds floating around out there (1-11s come to mind).
 
Did the Tu-204-120CE ever enter scheduled service with Air China Cargo? If it didn't, maybe it never completed Chinese certification and this is being rectified now, for whatever reason (ACC changed its mind? A different Chinese carrier wants to operate the ex-ACC airframes?). The military option is of course a possibility and it does have advantages in this respect even over A320s - converting the latter for military purposes would probably be frowned upon in the West (going by the reaction to the 737 airborne command posts). Also, the Tupolev may not be quite as efficient (such as the importance of efficiency is, by military standards), but if the Airbus is too small for what China intends to do with it that's a moot point, especially since the Tu-204 is already quite small for certain roles.

For example, a tanker based on it could not even match the KC-135R due to its much lower MTOW - if you assume that auxiliary tankage was installed such that it could be fuelled up to its MTOW, off-load at 1000nm would be about 20 tons (1+h loiter on station). This is based on the 2500nm mission from the following .pdf file (1000nm out, 500nm to give 1h loiter plus some reserves in case the receivers show up late, 20 tons of transferable fuel, 3 tons allowance for refuelling equipment, 1000nm back to base):

http://www.skylineaviation.co.uk/downloads/TupolevTu-20.pdf

Of course, what sealord suggests is also conceivable.

EDIT: Nevermind, found a source which says it received CAAC certification.
 
Upppsss ... along-dead tread !

Now since we finally know that it is know a tanker, but the J-20's radar testbed at least a few images ...


Deino
 

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Spotted again ... ???
 

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