C-17 and A400M had a baby … in China

Back in 2005 two Flight colleagues — Brendan Sobie and Andrew Doyle — broke the story that China’s Xian Aircraft Corp was developing a four-jet freighter sized between a C-130 and a C-17.

Well, four years later, the always fantastic China Military Aviation site has posted the first images of the Y-20. Does anything about this model strike you as, you know, familiar? It’s perhaps worth noting that a California jury in July convicted Dongfan Chung, a former Boeing employee, of selling secrets about the C-17, among other things, to … guess who?

Y-X3.jpgAccording to the Chinese web site, the Y-20 will weigh more than 400,000lb, placing the transport in an interesting gap between the 585,000lb C-17 and the roughly 311,000lb A400M.



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31 Responses to C-17 and A400M had a baby … in China

  1. Dave 21 December, 2009 at 8:33 pm #

    Now that you mention it, it does look rather familiar- but the Chinese wouldn’t steal our intellectual property now, would they?

  2. eg 21 December, 2009 at 8:50 pm #

    What is the pylon for between #3 & #4?

  3. Stephen Trimble 21 December, 2009 at 8:53 pm #

    I’m pretty sure that’s just the base of the model. But it made me look a few times before I figured that out.

  4. aeroxavier 21 December, 2009 at 9:02 pm #

    new copy.
    they can’t make their own plane, they can only take idea of others.poor china and some chinese imagine they are one great country because they have brain but no , it is just the result of foreign country

    • IBangAeroxavier 27 September, 2013 at 2:56 pm #


      This is what people usually call the ‘Configuration’ !!!

      Configuration is always SHARE, not COPY !!!

      Most likely you are the great one who has no brain !!!

  5. EG 21 December, 2009 at 9:10 pm #

    I must be ready for a QA job, blind in one eye, can’t see out of the other.

    Perhaps the Chinese used some of the data, maybe they even copied it completely. But, I wouldn’t discount any intellectual ability.

    Don’t forget that aside from design trends; More often then not form follows function in aviation.

  6. George Zip 21 December, 2009 at 9:58 pm #

    Then again, it could equally have been copied from one of the FIMA turbofan trade studies from the 1980s.

  7. Chris 21 December, 2009 at 10:29 pm #

    It looks familiar but then again how many ways can you design a transport aircraft. Its basically a big tube with engines under the wing.

  8. AirShowFan 22 December, 2009 at 1:11 am #

    Isn’t Embraer also working on something similar?

    And I’m with Chris. Don’t most military transports share this configuration? “Oooh, the Chinese have a C-141 clone! High-tech stuff!” ;]

  9. Herkeng130 22 December, 2009 at 4:07 am #

    Looks very much like the original Airbus A400M whitepaper design, the AMC (Airbus Military Company) Future Large Aircraft with the turbofan design.

  10. SMSgt Mac 22 December, 2009 at 7:19 am #

    I had an additional duty of Security Manager for a UAV flight test organization for years. As part of the duties, I maintained a Security Awareness bulletin board (no doubt these days they just have an e-mail newsletter that people can s***can without reading first – more efficient that way) My most successful bulletin board by far was the month I posted a photo of a Chinese TU-4 (Tupelov rip-off of the B-29) carrying a Chinese copy of a Ryan Firebee drone. People got the point.

    Having said the above, there isn’t really a lot you can do different if you want to build an airlifter with a ramp and drive on/off cargo capability that will fly so many miles with the same generation of technology. Similarities are bound to be close.
    Which brings me to what I think is a more important question. Are they developing this capability to move force packages around internally or are they more for force projection?

  11. EG 22 December, 2009 at 2:46 pm #

    In both cases the TU-4 and drone were based on examples that landed in the territory of the nation that copied them.

    Merely duplicating the configuration is not enough. Weight has too be controlled, engines have to develop the power, electronics have to function. But, I wouldn’t discount any intellectual ability.

    For example, the Japanese are rumored to have copied the landing gear off the Vought V-166, The they wrapped a completely new and rather sucessful aircraft around them. It was called the the A6M. And there were plenty of people discounting their design capabilities.

    This is worth reading. (And timely too.)

  12. dallas 23 December, 2009 at 3:42 pm #

    Don’t underestimate the Chinese Aerospace Industry, they will be leading the world in both military and civilian aviation in 20 years. They are already building chinese A320s in Tianjin.

  13. aeroxavier 23 December, 2009 at 4:23 pm #

    yeah they make copy of others, you say they make A320
    this is not chinese,this is european model(–copy–)
    about this A320, every time people (of airbus) search on chinese document and others stuff in chinese workers for spying intention.
    Airbus says some workers was paying for take info for build their own copy of this plane
    -recently f-35 doc spying
    -russian aircraft copy was made in china
    -soviet carrier spying
    -french VBCI have one copy in china
    -ak-47 is made in china now
    -hummer (humvee of usf) build by one china
    -missile and drones to
    can’t ask chinese have ingeniors for their economy in all point they have take idea of others for make his economy and military industry.
    exept the made in china, that was not chinese brain

  14. EG 23 December, 2009 at 5:20 pm #

    I guess you don’t remember the comments made about Japanese electronics in the 60′s and 70′s. Anyone who discounts an economic competitor does so at their own peril.

    Oh and BTW, go look at aircraft design over the last oh….100 years or so and you’ll see trends.

    Was the Spitfire copied from the BF-109, or better yet was the Reggiane RE2000 fighter copied from the P-35? Was the F-14 copied from the MiG-25?

    IL-76 from C-141? ad nauseum…..

  15. dallas 23 December, 2009 at 5:29 pm #

    Copy for now.

    But, they are moving faster than any culture has before. 10 years ago it was inconceivable that they could even be making their own Chinese a320s

    Check out their new Chinese C919, which looks surprisingly like to the a320. Once they have that in just a few years, they will stop making a320s.

  16. F14RIO 24 December, 2009 at 1:24 pm #

    There really is only so much aerodynamic latitude when it comes to transport aircraft. The tube, high wing and T-tail configuration can be sized for whatever maximum load & type of cargo that is required to be transported. So a Chinese transport that looks remarkably like a C-5, C-17, C-141, An-124 etc. is not remarkable. What might be remarkable is that it would give the Chinese the capability to support their interests in other hemispheres – like Africa.
    The MiG-25 was designed specifically to go after the B-70 Valkarie. The F-14 was developed because McNamera’s folly, the F-111B, was not even close to being carrier suitable. The F-14 was a clean sheet fighter design that had no commonality with the MiG-25 interceptor. Going head-to-head would have resulted in a lot fewer MiGs or frustrated Tomcat crews because the MiGs were running away (real fast).

  17. Iloha 24 December, 2009 at 1:28 pm #

    That’s look like ‘four-engined Japanese C-X’.
    But Main gear and Windshield layout… like An-70.
    That’s Strange Chimera of World Military Cargo Aircraft.

  18. 7K7 24 December, 2009 at 5:44 pm #

    Well, at the beginning of the jet era, a lot of the US engines were copies of the likes of Bristol Siddely Olympus, RR Avon, Nene etc. And the Bell X-1, go look at the never flown Miles M52. Conversely you have things like the Westland Wessex and Sea King, based on Sikorski models.

    Even earlier, people built copies of the Wrights Flyer, the Ford Tri-motor looked very similar to some of the Fokker aircraft, and so on.

    So, what’s so wrong about what the Chinese are attempting? More power to their elbows – the more players the merrier :-)

    Enter stage left India

  19. EG 27 December, 2009 at 3:07 pm #

    I only meant to describe the design fashion trend within aviation. Another example would be the 2 dimensional intakes established by the A-5.

    Your comment about the geopolitical implications are big!

    BTW, with 13 years O & I on the TF30, I won’t comment on the MiG-25 other than to say;
    I would not want to be the brownshirt assisting crew out of the cockpit after that sortie!

  20. Ming 4 January, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

    I am an outsider working in the States but heard of a Chinese insider comment on Large Transport Aircraft in China regarding the Chinese government central policy. It is the time when the latest earthquake hit Sichuan provience, central China next to Tibet, that the Prime personally has shown anger of poor air transportability by the People Liberation Army during rescue operation. No doubt the civil technology could be used in military just like anybody else. Maybe the whole competition is now about a challenge of policy makers instead of technology shitfing.

  21. eagle_ami 10 January, 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    Looks like it would be quite about time for Airbus to review its technology transfer policies to China (see the A320 assembly line, among the other examples) if western airframers don’t want to find a serious competitor there in 10 yrs time…

  22. Iloha 13 January, 2010 at 2:58 am #

    China concerned about Japanese C-X…
    In last weekend, Some Japanese newspaper reported about Kawasaki C-X’s first flight planning in late of January. (I expect first flight day in 20 or 26 of Jan.)
    http://www.gifu-np.co.jp/news/kennai/20100108/201001080854_9701.shtml (Japanese Source)
    (English translated source…by China)

  23. Joseph Tan 11 June, 2010 at 6:31 am #

    The aerodynamic and the physics related to plane does not change over the last 100 years. What had change is the technology and know-how and sub-system to improve them. China is focusing on the best of all the mature technology – so that she will not have to spent so much on any sudden upgrades.

    For example on Airbus: the cockpit area of Airbus is common whether they are A-300, A – 310, A-320, A-330, A-340 and possibly even A-380 and A- 350. Reasons? It saves costs – a production plants can serve on all this model, and commonality also meant that pilot did not have to be retrained to fly new planes, if the Airliner upgrades or buy new planes.

    The same with China. Why should they start reinventing the wheels, when it serve the rest so well – perhaps they may improved on the weight (read: carbon composite), range (lighter craft), load, engine efficiency – both fuel consumption and increase thrust, radar or any sub-system when it relates to safety.

    So to say that China industry only rely or exist on stealing from another is a bit unfair. Many ideas may be bought off-the shelf or from the access of open-sourced.

  24. Fulk Skirts 1 July, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    Decorated with the top edge with ribbon, lace, or leave plain. After sewing, you can then add the notion of the bodice, as buttons or tiny Luke… Just my 2 cents : )

  25. baby products 7 August, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    Great post!

  26. bodyarmorhelmet 12 September, 2010 at 3:51 am #


  27. Huey Valois 22 September, 2010 at 8:40 am #

    as spiritualist Deepak Chopra puts it, ” It is the nature of babies to be in bliss.”

  28. angle drill 17 January, 2011 at 1:43 am #

    As a result of there is no better word. This is simply bad! I want to say, we want to have a laugh in the failure to get real to be able to in reality be capable of really feel absolutely into account, however it is not.

  29. Radio Controlled Helicopter Fan 25 April, 2011 at 9:21 pm #

    Hey Stephen,

    I would have to agree that it looks similar, very familiar but then most carrier planes do to me. My thing is helicopters, unfortunately I’m not a professional pilot so the closest I’ll get to flying one is my radio controlled helicopter.

    It wouldn’t be the first time the Chinese have allegedly copied American designs but when it comes to technology and design the chinese are in a league of their own so certainly have the ability.

  30. IbangAeroxavier 25 September, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    Racist aeroSUXavier is always full mouth of kraps.

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