Did Satellites Capture China's Mysterious Giant War Plane?

The GeoEye 1 and IKONOS spacecraft have captured satellite images of the mysterious Xian Aircraft Corporation Y-20, China's first long range jet transport. It shows the clearest image of the giant transport plane yet and reveals that China's plane looks a lot like the U.S. Air Force's C-17. That's not an accident.

The satellite images, which were obtained by Wired's Danger Room, show China's Y-20 as having the same "wide swept wing and T-shaped tail" as the Boeing made C-17. The blueprints of the C-17 were stolen by spies working for Boeing and given to China. This plane's design is a rip off.

What China can't rip off though is the engines that are necessary to power the plane. Apparently, there are only four companies capable of building the kind of engines that the Y-20 needs. Three are Western companies (GE/CFM, Rolls Royce and Pratt & Whitney) and one is Russian. It's assumed that China will have to use Russian engines to lift its 200 ton body (however, Russia is reluctant to sell engines to China because China might rip them off) and those engines may lack the performance in modern transport planes. So though the Y-20 may look like an American giant transport plane, it may actually be all show and no go. [Wired, Image Credit: GeoEye GeoEye 1]


    No idea why gizmodo post this. Clearly, your writing reveal your lack of knowledge on planes. The russian IL76 looks about the same shape. Not all planes are made from US!

      Given Russian technology is still excellent even if they do have outmoded construction methods, I'd agree. US technologies may be good, but given many Russian techs are still cranking out now AND are just as good, the US government is still getting ripped by weapons companies IMO

    In related news the Chinese have made car-shaped cars and clothes-shaped clothes...

    Because its very well known and proven the Chinese govt hackers entered US military & defence suppliers IT systems from 1999 through to 2003 with the hack only becoming known due to defector information. Information for the F22, the B2, the C17, Raytheon middle defence systems, satellite laser tech etc, the list is mind blowing in its scope. Once the NSA knew where to look they realised the extent and prompt hid and denied until an Op-Ed piece in the MY times

    It was THE biggest most succesful govt defence hack ever.

    Very very pertinent what china does... Check out the new Y15,21 fighter just coming online. It's a near copy of an F22. The IL76 is also heavily stolen/copied as well as indicated by the strangely sloping front crew section which the C17 doesn't have, the nose of a 17 is used to for the non standard dimension stowage (you gotta have somewhere to point a barrel I guess). their missiles, satellites and helicopters have evolved in decade like leaps

    And it's the reason why the Russians are not keen to supply engine tech which could power a cargo plane to potentially use against Russia in another sino- Russian conflict.

    Last edited 06/01/13 1:24 pm

      Y15,21? What exactly is that supposed to be? Chinese fighters all begin with a J designation, and the latest fighter 'just coming online' is the Chengdu J-20. It's not even remotely a 'near copy' of the F22, but rather an evolution on the scrapped Russian MiG 1.44 design. Lockheed Martin acknowledged they'd had information stolen relating to the F-35 project, but the airframe design isn't even closely similar between the J-20 and the F-35, nor the F-22.

        Sorry for A, hitting the wrong letter and B, being too lazy to fully type J15 and J21

        And C for you being too lazy to bother even checking to be sure before being a dumbass in a post. Stop reading plane bios on ur flight simulator and try something even as basic as google

        Hang on ur probably too damn lazy to do even that so here let me


        When you get your hand off it, take a look and tell me what that looks like? And for your info to be technically correct the next thing coming online is J23 which has not even been seen 'in the wild'

        So yeah maybe lose the attitude in your posts until your actually correct and fully understand what your talking about

          'The next thing coming online' is the J-20, which is expected to enter service in 2017. The J-31 follows that, having just completed its first test flight two months ago. There's no such thing as a J-23 outside of alternate history forums and futurist fiction, it doesn't exist.

          I'm not sure if you're implying it, but the J-15 doesn't resemble American aircraft at all. It's an almost exact copy of the Su-27 with canards attached. The J-20 is an evolution of the MiG 1.44, with an elongated body, out-turned vertical stabilisers and slightly trapezoidal wing profile.

          The J-31, which you didn't mention at all in your initial post, does resemble the F-22 at first glance. However, you'll notice that its airframe evolution actually originates in the Su-27 through the J-15 and J-20, with a shortened fuselage, J-20 trapezoidal wings compressed length-wise to fit and modified Su-27/J-15 horizontal stabilisers to match the trapezoidal profile of the wings.

          You could argue that the trapezoidal wing design is a knockoff of the F-22, except that trapezoidal wings have been around since the 50s. There are a number of significant differences, including a completely different wing profile, completely different horizontal stabilisers, completely different air intake and engine profiles and so on. I certainly agree there's a resemblance, but the way the J-31 came about is through Russian fighter design and from looking to create an air superiority fighter competitive with the F-22, not from outright copying the F-22 . There's a big difference between doing a cursory visual comparison of the aircraft, and noticing the finer differences that belie a completely different design evolution.

          No attitude here, just pointing out that you were mistaken in your original post. You said the J-15 and J-21 designs were knockoffs of the F-22, and you were mistaken. If you'd mentioned the J-31 to begin with, the conversation probably would have gone differently. I didn't accuse you of being lazy, or not fact-checking, or getting your information from a flight simulator, or anything childish like that. I wouldn't resort to such petty things. For the record, I get my information through my job.

            Same, commercial pilot after spending eleven years RNZAF and 3 in RAAF out of SA

            IF your a flier then excellent, glad you did your time. Instead of turning this into a pissing contest about every spec it's probably fairer to say that unless we're hanging our with the engineers, techs, aviacs and monkey fairies in Ghangzhou province (the 15 was 'designed, modified' there) before component assembled + final fitouts) then every other commentator is making a subjective call based on the opinions taken and given. Mine included, yours also (Breath.....!)

            The 23 does exist. If you want info and ur willing to verify a few details about yourself just reply with an affirmative. Ill happily set up a guest account for you to access on Janes. The fact that no geosat or airport trolls haven't seen it is true. There is an image you can access once ur logged in. Admittedly it's from an NOAA sat so its resolution is down to 1.2m not the .5 as above, it's definitely Chinese, definitely stealth(y) and definitely real, an infrared image is available also. You need a military login, or a guest of a mil login

            Apologies for flaming, perhaps you can relate as your info is well referenced enough that you could pass for an analyst.... If the ADF had bothered to keep any last decade

            Enough typing, iPad sucks for this

            Last edited 09/01/13 9:14 pm

              Not a flyer unfortunately, though that'd be fun. I'll just say I'm a contract software developer and data/systems analyst with defence clearance. My (private sector) employer's a bit nazi about saying much else. No hard feelings anyway, I can definitely see how the J-31 looks like an F-22 knockoff. I think if there's any design influence from stolen American data though, it's probably come from the F-35 project rather than the F-22. As for the J-23 sat image on Janes, I haven't seen it, but at 1.2m resolution are you sure it's not the J-31? It has a stealth profile and a top view very similar to the F-22. And you're right, tablets suck for typing =)

              Last edited 10/01/13 6:33 am


    This involves the X37 though of course it also would refer to X47.... The Chinese version is an exact copy

    I'd say Giz is fairly on target with the article. Maybe even a follow up about what other secrets china had access to, and what's in the development pipeline

    Gives you an idea on why china is becoming the space super power, they have the money and very quickly gaining/stealing the info required. And the political ability to focus on it

    So what you are saying is that the Y-20 is built from C-17 plans...
    So what you are saying is that the Y-20 is a C-17...

    How does this constitute as a "rip-off" when it was made from the EXACT same plans?

      Try working it out and looking online or actually read the article, no one said its an exact copy or that a Y20 is a C17

      Though the specs are more than close enough for it to be fairly called a close copy, as the article says.

      If you bothered to even type 'Y20 image' into google or had a clue what a C17 looks like when it's not on your play station , then you'd say both planes, while very similar have multiple points of difference

    They don't have to even try very hard to hack anymore - they have plenty of back-doors in their circuit boards and chips, as more and more critical systems are made in China, more and more vulnerabilities will exist deep in these devices.

    China has more money and military ambition than any country on earth right, I'm sure they'll have it flying soon enough.

    Isn't it the case that any large cargo plane is going to have a large fuselage, which will require large wings, and large engines on those wings, and... end up looking pretty much the same as the large cargo planes made by other countries?

    Umm the shape of the Y-20 has been well known for a few years now; the Chinese have even been showing models of it at airshows!

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