If there is one thing the Chinese haven’t been known for in a long time, it’s originality.
In a race to the world stage as a global superpower, The People’s Republic of China has had to make a few shortcuts- primarily in making knock-off products, which has researchers and developers in other countries footing the bill in terms of doing all the heavy lifting to create a product.
If one were to look for a prime example of such “copycat” techniques, they need not look any further than China’s air power.
While China’s Air Force is impressive, its long-standing issue with modernization forced it to cut corners, using stolen enemy technology to leapfrog ahead and often making up for inferior quality with superior numbers.
For example, the Chinese J-10 is the result of the Israelis selling information to China that was once used in a joint US-Israeli project to improve the F-16, a lightweight multi-role fighter that makes up a large part of the USAF’s Active, Reserve and Air Guard combat fleet.
According to Popular Mechanics, the Chinese were largely flying in 1960s-era aircraft prior to the 1980s, when the J-10 began entering service. The moment it left the factory and took to the sky, observers could tell that his lightweight fighter -which, like the F-16, has been upgraded multiple times over the past few decades- was an obvious copycat job.
Another obvious copy of American work is the J-20, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the plane it is supposed to shoot down, the F-22. Officially the first 5th-generation fighter in China’s inventory, the J-20 is the result of espionage by Chinese national Su Bin, who spent 46 months in federal prison for passing on F-22 data.
Fortunately for the Americans, China’s skill at ripping off other countries is only surpassed by their ability to create poor-quality clones of things they copy. The J-20 is believed to have a much larger radar signature and lower performance than the F-22, rendering all those sleek lines useless in a practical sense.
Still, with only around 200 F-22s ever built before the project was canceled and funds were tied up over the F-35 (which has its own copy in the form of the J-31), China may be able to outproduce the US in numbers of sleek new warplanes- even if we can see them from 100 miles away.
The US isn’t the only country China frequently copies- in fact, the Russians receive far more attention from the Chinese in terms of desirable product. Often cheaper to make and much easier to obtain/copy, Russia has been the source of Chinese copycatting since the beginning of the Cold War. From Type 56 clones of AK rifles to high-performance aircraft, it seems that Russia can’t even design a new product without China paying attention.
In the field of aircraft, the two most obvious copies are planes like the J-15 are direct rip-offs of the Russian Su-33, the carrier-friendly version of the Su-27.
The J-15 is what happens when a cash-strapped Ukraine (who also sold a carrier to China) parts with an Su-33 prototype in order to make a quick buck, allowing China to reverse-engineer it from the ground up.
Like the J-15, the J-11 and J-16 are in themselves copies of the Su-27, and make up a large chunk of China’s top-tier airpower. Seeing opportunity in crisis, the Chinese bought the production line from a collapsing Soviet Union, who at the time were effectively struggling to “keep the lights on” as a country.
Other aircraft -ranging from drones that look like Reaper drones and copies of Vietnam-era MiG 21s, also line China’s arsenal, making the People’s Liberation Army Air Force the most unoriginal organic air force in the world.
© 2018 Bright Mountain Media, Inc.
All rights reserved. The content of this webpage may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written consent of Bright Mountain Media, Inc. which may be contacted at email@example.com, ticker BMTM.