Since Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine, Europe’s airspace has seen a jump in air traffic with military aircrafts going back and forth with arms and aid. However, European skies saw some very unusual visitors in Serbia, one of Russia’s few allies in the region.

Development And Testing of Y-20

In a surprising move, six People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Xian Y-20 heavy Long Range Transport aircrafts recently flew to Serbia through Turkish airspace, surprising flight trackers and aviation watchers. The aircraft was first spotted just north of Istanbul in Turkey. Following the sighting of the aircraft, Chinese analysts (unaware of the actual purpose of the visit) speculated that it could be the greatest international operation yet by a Chinese-developed heavy transport plane, demonstrating the country’s strategic transport capabilities. According to the analysis of the flight trackers, military aircraft with MLAT have been going into Poland for delivery of weapon systems ever since the war started. MLAT is a military technology that uses a process known as Time Difference of Arrival to correctly locate aircraft, many of which do not want to be “seen.”

Even as there was no official Chinese announcement on the matter, Chinese military observers stated that the deployment of six Y-20 heavy transport aircraft could signal an unprecedented overseas missions like United States C-17 Globemaster.

Technology And China’s Missions of Future

The Y-20 has previously been used by China on missions to Europe. The PLA, for example, used a Y-20 to transport 105 PLA honour guard personnel to Moscow in June 2020 for the Russian Victory Day celebration. However, to reach Serbia from China, the Y-20s would have to fly through multiple nations which would mean that China must have had extensive coordination and communication with the governments of the countries that it would have to pass through, a Chinese analyst speculated. But the Chinese experts could not ascertain why the aircraft undertook a flight to Serbia at a time when a war is raging between Russia and Ukraine.

It is pertinent to mention that Serbia is a close Russian ally that has condemned the war but has stopped short of imposing sanctions on Russia. Serbia also enjoys a close relationship with China. Later, reports indicated that the Chinese cargo aircraft that caused ripples were dispatched to the Balkan state for delivering a sophisticated Chinese anti-aircraft system to Belgrade. However, China has maintained that only “regular military supplies” were delivered to Serbia. The news described it as a “semi-secret operation” that raised concerns in the west regarding an arms build-up in Serbia at the time of a war that could potentially threaten the peace in the Balkan region that remains fragile.

According to media and military experts, the fleet of aircraft delivered HQ-22 surface-to-air missile systems for the Serbian military. Experts viewed the transfer of armaments over the territory of at least two NATO member states, Turkey and Bulgaria, as a symbol of China’s expanding global reach. The West is concerned that Russia and China arming Serbia may encourage the Balkan country to fight again, particularly against Kosovo which declared independence in 2008 with American help. Serbia, Russia, and China do not recognize Kosovo’s independence as opposed the western world.

Both China and Russia are close partners of Serbia which often finds itself isolated with NATO countries surrounding it. Serbia was to initially buy the Russian S-30O but later settled for the Chinese HQ-22 due to the high cost of the Russian system. In 2020, US officials cautioned Belgrade against buying HQ-22 anti-aircraft systems, which are also known as FK-3 in their export variant. Even though it has a lesser range than more advanced S-300s, the Chinese missile system has been frequently compared to the American Patriot and Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems. Serbia will be the first European country to use Chinese missiles now, a precedent that would not be appreciated by the United States amid rising tensions with China in the backdrop of a Russian invasion.

However, it does open the possibility of China gaining ground in Europe as the Russian defence industry is now struck with sanctions. The success of Chinese systems in the region could thus be unsettling for the West saw an opportunity to substitute Russian defence hardware.

Lethal Z-20 China’s Great White Shark

It has made Z-20 a new advanced chopper with amazing attack capabilities and trials has been successfully done. After ‘Super Success’ Of Y-20, China Launches Next-Gen Stealth Helicopter That Boasts ‘Superior’ Features. The Chinese military has been working on developing new and more advanced military choppers after successfully establishing a family of military choppers in the last few decades, including the Z-20 helicopter which has been projected as the cornerstone of its air power.

China’s leading helicopter manufacturers announced that an all-new type of helicopter with an innovative design has successfully completed its maiden flight. The prototype of this chopper will lead to the development of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s next-generation, high-performance helicopter, as reported. According to analysts, the new helicopter could have a higher speed, better stealth capabilities, or a larger take-off weight than most current helicopters in its inventory.

The Changhe Aircraft Industry (Group) Corporation Ltd and the China Helicopter Research and Development Institute, both subsidiaries of the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), launched a self-funded project to break the limits of conventional aerodynamic design, improve performance and combat capabilities, push forward technological innovations, and optimize industrial development modes in Jingdezhen, East China’s Jiangxi Province.

According to the Chinese press statement, the new helicopter completed its first flight successfully and is now performing additional test flights to ensure its performance. This development comes shortly after China had hinted that it was also developing an enhanced variant of the Z-20 helicopters. Often referred to as a clone of the American Black Hawk chopper, the Z-20 is apparently going through various upgrades to allow the helicopter to perform multiple missions. The manufacturer’s priority is an assault variant of this iconic helicopter. Since the 1950s, China has manufactured around 60 different types of helicopters based on 12 different platforms. According to the press release, the prototype will lay a solid foundation for the PLA’s future development of a next-generation, high-performance helicopter.

This is China's "Great White Shark" military helicopter, unveiled at the China Helicopter Exposition in Tianjin. It is still in the prototype stage. However, at the time of the Helicopter design tournament held last year, some Chinese analysts had spelled out the potential features of the future aircraft. Deng Jinghui, the chief designer at the Helicopter Research and Development Institute had said that the future helicopter could include AI, the Internet of Things, 5G connectivity, new energy, and new materials. Situational awareness enhancement, decision-making assistance, intelligent pilot-helicopter interaction, smart cockpits, autopilots, boundary protection, noise-reducing smart rotor adjustments, and smart landing gears are just a few examples of where AI could be used. It’s difficult to anticipate the capabilities of the new helicopter right now because it’ll have a completely new aerodynamic design, according to the expert, who also noted that because the project is self-funded and the aircraft is still a prototype, it’ll take some time for it to mature.

This chopper is said to be capable of flying at speeds of over 400 kilometers per hour, much exceeding current models. Further, the US Army is currently evaluating, testing, and debating two different helicopter programs for the future. The Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) is the first, while the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft is the second (FLRAA). The FLRAA is expected to quadruple the current UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter’s range and speed. Both types are to be built to meet Army speed, range, and lift requirements. Having said that, China and the West are investing in developing helicopters of the future to aid in multi-role missions and work as capacity enhancer while also functioning as an assault aircraft. The future helicopters could also be pitted against one another as has been the case with the Z-20 and Blackhawks.

Chinese Future Plan And Indian Concerns

Now, President Xi Jinping proposed a new Global Security Initiative which would be based on the principle of ‘indivisible security’ at the Boao Forum. At first sight, few would take issue with the notion that everyone’s security matters and that promoting your security at the expense of another’s is the short route to everyone’s insecurity. The real world’s politics is about the constant jostling for power and influence where powerful nations seek to advance their economic, technological and military capabilities to protect and further their national interest.

International power equations not only judged by nuclear weapons only but also several other types of advanced military hardware. We don’t have the technology to make heavy transport jets and Chinese has already tested its stealth warplane J-20 with advanced technologies but our LCA has been going for trials and has no match for J-20’s technology. Soon, it will be obsolete in the coming days as new technologies will be emerging at those times. We must keep the pace fast to bridge the gap.


(1) Ukraine War – China’s ‘Flying Giant’ Y-20 Heavy-Lift Aircraft Delivers Weapons To Russia’s Key Ally In Europe, The EurAsian Times by Sakshi Tiwari, April 11,2022.
(2.) After ‘Super Success’ Of Z-20, China Launches Next-Gen Stealth Helicopter That Boasts ‘Superior’ Features, The EurAsian Times by Sakshi Tiwari, April 06,2022.
(3.) Xi’s new Initiative-security by Manoj Joshi, The Tribune April 26, 2026 p.6.
(4.) China eyes technological edge over rivals by Abhijit Bhattacharya, The Tribune Sep, 29 2021.
(5.) Stick to the basics of nuclear deterrence by Manpreet Sethi, The Tribune p.7

Rahul Dev is employed with Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar who tracks geopolitical issues