China Unveils TA-20, A DART-450-derived Reconnaissance Trainer
IndraStra Global

China Unveils TA-20, A DART-450-derived Reconnaissance Trainer

By IndraStra Global News Team

Image Attribute: Chengdu Hermes Technology Ltd (Hermes-sys)'s Team with TA-20, dated November 6, 2018,/ Source: Twitter

Image Attribute: Chengdu Hermes Technology Ltd (Hermes-sys)'s Team with TA-20, dated November 6, 2018. / Source: Twitter

On December 28, 2018, China unveiled its own version of Diamond Aircraft Reconnaissance Trainer (DART)-450 turboprop tandem two-seat trainer aircraft. The Chinese license build version is designated TA-20 and envisioned to become the new generation of primary trainer aircraft for the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) by replacing the current inventory of Nanchang CJ-6A. The DART-450 (made its first flight on May 17, 2016), originally designed as a light reconnaissance aircraft, is being developed by Austria-based Diamond Aircraft Industries GmbH (DAI GmbH). It is the world’s first all-carbon fiber, tandem twin-seat civil and military trainer. 

The first test flight of TA-20 was conducted on November 6 at the CETC Wuhu Diamond Aircraft Manufacturer Co., Ltd’s facility in Jiangsu Province. The TA-20 is an outcome of a 2013 joint venture (JV) between the CETC and the Wuhu Municipal Government located in the territory of Wuhu Aviation Industrial Park in Wuhu, which assembles and sells licensed-version of Diamond DA 20 and DA 42 aircraft in China, as well as provides maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for all types of DAI aircraft.

In December 2016, China-based Wanfeng Aviation Industry Co., Ltd. (The aviation arm of Wanfeng Auto Holding Group) first acquired the Canadian division of DAI GmbH, which is one of the main assembly units of the Austrian company. Lately,  DAI GmbH and its subsidiary Austro Engine GmbH was entirely acquired by the same Chinese company on December 23, 2017. The relationship between Wanfeng Auto Holding Group and CETC with respect to DAI GmbH is unclear, but most likely they work in partnership with the assistance of Chinese authorities.

Image Attribute: TA-20 Test Crew, dated November 6, 2018 / Source: Twitter

Image Attribute: TA-20 Test Crew, dated November 6, 2018. / Source: Twitter


Specifications of the TA-20


The aircraft is powered by a single AI-450SD turboprop engine, jointly developed by Ukrainian companies GP "Ivchenko-Progress" and Motor Sich JSC (Zaporizhia). The engine drives a five-bladed MT propeller and offers a maximum take-off power of 400hp to 495hp. And, it can reach a top speed of 230 kt with a service ceiling of 23,000 ft (7,010 m). The aircraft comes with a maximum endurance of eight hours plus reserve along with The maximum rate of climb exceeding 15m/s.

Image Attribute: TA-20 Simulator's Cockpit View / Source: Twitter

Image Attribute: TA-20 Simulator's Cockpit View / Source: Twitter

In the cockpit, Chengdu Hermes Technology Ltd (Hermes-sys) has installed Smart-210 integrated touchscreen-based primary flight displays (PFDs) and multi-functional displays (MFDs). However, the original DART-450 features Garmin G3000 avionics suite. Similarly, the Martin-Baker ejection seats of the original aircraft have been replaced with locally made pneumatic ejection seat.

According to data released by DAI, the operating cost of the aircraft is expected to be US$ 500 an hour, equivalent to RMB 3,400. A basic 8-hour training flight will cost somewhere near US$ 4000 which is highly cost-effective with a burn of about 90 liters (24 gallons) per hour. In other words, TA-20 will provide trainees with more flight hours for practice. 


Image Attribute: TA-20 Test Crew, dated November 6, 2018. / Source: Twitter