50 Years of Chinese Aviation Knockoffs

These Chinese aircraft look familiar, but they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

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The Xian Y-20 is a large military transport aircraft that flew for the first time in China last month. It is projected to have a max takeoff weight of 485,000 lbs versus 585,000 lbs for the similar looking C-17 Globemaster III.
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The Shenyang J-31 is a fifth-generation fighter that is thought to have flown for the first time last September. Rumors are swirling that development of the fighter is prompting China’s neighbors to again consider buying Lockheed Martin F-35s, the progenitor of the Chinese design.
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China’s Yi Long UAV, unveiled at the Air China airshow in Zhuhai last November, is purported to be a less costly alternative to the U.S.-made MQ-9 Reaper.
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Similar in appearance to the Northrup Fire Scout, the SVU 200 is a VTOL unmanned aerial vehicle powered by a 78 hp piston engine that gives it an endurance of 2.6 hours. The helicopter drone flew for the first time last September.
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The Chengdu J-20 is a fifth-generation stealth fighter that flew for the first time in early 2011. Reminiscent of the U.S.-made F-22, the Chinese fighter is expected to be operational as early as 2017.
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A clone of the Global Hawk UAV, the Tianchi drone is reportedly still in the prototype phase as developers seek a suitable engine. China also lacks the skilled drone operators needed to field large fleets of UAVs, analysts say.
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Not much is known about this Chinese UAV spotted in Changchun in 2011, but there’s no questioning its resemblance to Boeing's X-45.
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The Shaanxi Y-9 is China’s answer to the C-130 Hercules, though it resembles the Antonov An-12. Powered by four 5,100-shp Zhuzhou WoJiang-6C turbine engines, the transport entered service with the Chinese military last year.
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The Shenyang J-15 is a carrier-based fighter similar in appearance to the Sukhoi Su-33. Currently in flight testing, the jet made its first successful carrier landings in November.
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With looks similar to that of the DC-9, the Comac ARJ-21 is a Chinese regional jet now under development that uses GE engines, a Honeywell fly-by-wire system and Rockwell Collins avionics.
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The Hongdu L-15 Falcon is a Chinese military trainer that appears to take its design cues from the Yakolev Yak-130.
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The Chengdu J-10 is a multirole Chinese fighter that looks like the brother of the IAI Lavi, a proposed Israeli fighter that never progressed past the prototype stage.
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The Xian MA60 is a Chinese turboprop regional airliner based directly on the Antonov An-24.
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Another near direct copy is the Shenyang J-11, which looks almost identical to the Sukhoi Su-27. In fact, NATO forces refer to the Su-27 as the Flanker and the J-11 as the Flanker-B.
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The Changhe Z-11 developed in the 1990s is a close copy of Eurocopter’s ubiquitous AS350.
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The Hongdu JL-8 military trainer introduced in the 1990s looks for all the world to be a 1970s-vintage Aermacchi MBB-339.
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The Chinese Shuishang Hongzhaji flying boat of the 1980s appears quite similar to the Japanese Shin Meiwa US-1A of the 1970s.
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The Changhe Z-8 and Aerospatiale Super Frelon appear very similar.
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The Chengdu J-8 is a copy of the Sukhoi Su-15.
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The Harbin Z-9 is a licensed-built version of today’s Eurocopter EC 155.
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The Chengdu J-7 is a licensed-built version of the MiG 21.
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The Xian H-6 is a licensed-built version of the Tupolev Tu-16.
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The Chinese J-5 is a direct copy of the MiG-17.
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The Harbin H-5 is a licensed-built version of the Ilyushin IL-28.
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The Harbin Z-5 is a Chinese copy of the Soviet Mil Mi-4 piston-powered helicopter.
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The Yunshuji-6 is a copy of the Soviet Ilyushin IL-12.
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The Nanchang CJ-6 was developed from the Yakolev Yak-18.
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A copy of the Antonov An-2, the Chinese Nanchang Y5 was built from Soviet blueprints and with supervision from Soviet advisors.