China imported the Antonov An-24 from early in its production run and also negotiated licenses for production of the aircraft and its engines. In 1966, Xi'an aircraft factory started the project of local production of An-24. The first Chinese-assembled An-24T had its maiden flight on 25 December 1970.
Production was launched in 1977 at the Xi'an aircraft factory but progress was slow due to the deleterious effects of the Cultural Revolution, with a pre-production aircraft displayed to the public at Nanyuan air base, near Beijing, on 17 April 1982. The WJ-5A1 turboprop engine was chosen as the Y-7's power source. The first production aircraft was not flown until February 1984, illustrating the slow progress (eighteen years from license to production).
The Chinese aircraft equated to the An-24RV, having a full complement of windows and the booster jet engine. The majority of early deliveries were to the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), mostly as transports, with a few in 52-seat airliner configuration for the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). After the initial licensed production run, the Y-7 was developed separately from the An-24 with a succession of upgrades culminating in the Xian MA60 (Modern Ark) series.
A tactical transport derivative was copied, unlicensed, from the Antonov An-26 and emerged as the Y-7H, incorporating the cargo ramp door and military equipment of the An-26.
Speculative designation for a 'Hot and High" version with more powerful engines.
A military variant of the MA60 produced for the PLAAF.
(Huo -cargo) A reverse-engineered An-26 with rear loading ramp for the PLAAF, entering production in 1992.
Civil variant of the Y-7H certified in 1994.
The original designation for the An-26 copy/Y-7H.
Improved version, developed in co-operation with HAECO (Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company), with redesigned cockpit and cabin, as well as winglets. This variation has an upgraded passenger cabin interior, with new avionics sourced from western providers. Flight crew reduced to three, it is capable of carrying 52 passengers.
Stretched version (74cm (29in)) with WJ5A-1G engines, built for the Chinese domestic market.
(Hongzhaji Yunshuji Jiaolianji - Bomber/transport/trainer) A pilot and crew trainer for H-6 heavy bombers fitted with a stabilized HM-1A bombsight, bomb-aiming radar and a TNL-7880 combined navigation system.