China Debuts Homegrown C-17 Clone

The Chinese Air Force launched the Y-20 for the first time on Saturday (as reported by AFP), an event the Chinese government press heralded as “a significant milestone” that would “enhance . . . global power projection.”

The Y-20 looks a lot like the Boeing-built C-17 used by the U.S. Air Force, but critics say it falls short of the Globemaster III’s performance in a number of respects.   Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the Canadian-based Kanwa Defense Review, said that the Y-20 was technologically inferior to other military transport planes.  True figures for the Y-20’s maximum load and flying range were likely to be lower than those cited in state media due to the plane’s reliance on a “very old” Russian-designed engine.

“(The engine’s) oil consumption is very bad, it wastes a lot of fuel,” he said, pointing out that because of noise some developed countries have banned aircraft using it from landing, threatening its potential appearance at European air shows.  (And that reality wouldn’t help it’s foreign military sales effort or international reputation.)

Chang also noted that the C-17’s long-range performance is possible because of the airplane’s composite materials, the manufacture of which the Chinese have struggled with to date.  And the Y-20 was likely to take at least another five years to enter operational service, he added.

But the Chinese only want to talk about capabilites.  The Y-20 has a maximum payload of 66 tons, which it can carry as far as 2,700 miles, the China Daily said, and with 55 tons on board it could fly from western China to Cairo.

It is big enough to hold the heaviest tank used by China’s army, the paper added, quoting a military expert as saying that “the heavy air freighters will ensure that we are able to safeguard our interests overseas.”

The Y-20 also allows the Chinese to end their dependence on Russian-made Il-76s for their transport needs.

  • Dfens

    Good thing our “capitalist” way of designing airplanes is so superior to their stupid old socialist way of designing them. Otherwise it would take us 30 years to come up with a new cargo plane and they’d be popping them out every few years. Well, unless we made the fatal mistake of putting all of our “capitalist” incentives in place such that they encouraged the contractors to drag out the design, then it might take us 30 years or more. I mean, hell, capitalism works either way, right? Of course, we’d never be so stupid as to pay a “for profit” company more to screw us, would we? We’d never be so stupid as to put all of the risk for a new airplane design on the US taxpayer and pay a defense contractor more to screw the US taxpayer than we pay them if they come in with a good, working design on time and on budget. No, we’d never be that stupid.

    • RationalRob

      Loving the negativity that persists on this site, where’s the educated constructive criticism, sick garbage like what this guy just posted.

      • Dfens

        Oh, so sorry. Was I off script? I meant to say, “they suck”. “All they can do is copy us and their version of the C-17 doesn’t even have winglets.” “Boo hiss!” “We’re #1, baby.” There, all our problems are fixed. No need to worry your little head over the Chinese now, is there?

        • jumper

          No… it’s just your nonsensical rant on the capitalist system somehow being responsible for a design and approval process controlled entirely by the government is somewhat laughable, and shows a fundamental lack of understanding. A free market economy has no oversight, that’s the job of the elected government. The fact that they’re incompetent has nothing to do with the merits of capitalism vs. communism as a base system.

        • ShadowHawk52

          Dfens if your going to write garbage like what you did above…… at least be funny and clever about it. We can at least respect humor even if we disagree with your views but you didn’t even do that!

          • swisshornet

            one of the primary tells is the compulsion to put capitalist and for-profit in quotations for emphasis. The stupid old socialist way? What would that be? Hah! The contemporary Chinese way of successfully obtaining pieces of key information/technology by hook or by crook, and demonstrating capability of innovation through imitation, at cost (i.e. engines, etc.).

    • wpnexp

      If the Chinese, copying our designs poorly for many years after we developed our systems, is an example of how communism is superior and how capitalism is inferior, you are strangely and horribly wrong. Do you suppose people working on things for free is the way to come up with great inventions, then go for it and produce some yourself. I will contently sit back and watch you starve as you put out pathetic products that no one will be interested in. When was the last time you built a C-17 for free anyway?

    • Matt

      The military/industrial complex is not capitalism. Please don’t tarnish capitalism with anything that has to do with “government”.

    • Chris
    • Mike

      What… You mean that Boeing hasn’t put factories in China like the rest of the US companies to build their commercial and military aircraft????? If it looks like a C17 then……..

    • Bruce

      the F-35 began in the eighties and it still not the replacement for the F-16. I may be that we never stop inventing interferes with get Er Done The Chinese are not innovators
      They are renovators and they use what they got .The military defense industry took a huge hit in the nineties and It will likely take another in the next few months only then will we see a reduction in Government supported industries in the U.S All the While the U.S loses jobs and talent from shuttered military industrial industries.
      New aircraft lead technology, that is why Brazil and China develop there own home Aviation industries .

    • boogieman

      What part of ‘go fuck yourself’ don’t you understand, you smart-ass maggot?

      • whatever

        come on, no need to get nasty.

        this is a forum; differences in opinion are to be expected.

        just present your arguments.

      • jake
    • Jon

      I too thought, “why is this guy attacking capitalism?”

    • Guy

      Boeing is filled with Chinese engineers they don’t like interact with rest of us this only shows they are also spy’s. So they work hard and cheap but this is just a false economy. Why they hire guy who read chinese news papers and have only Chinese friends and relatives is ridiculous. I am not condoning racism but don’t let them work on military hardware.

  • IFB

    Wing box completely different, fuselage more slender and it uses low bypass turbofans. But call it what you want.

  • redordead

    “The Y-20 looks a lot like the Boeing-built C-17”

    it also looks a lot like the Airbus a400 (without the props). what do you expect from a military cargo plane?

  • Jayson

    Good first step to being able to participate internationally in roles. It’s small scale but it’s something. It won’t compete with Western capabilities but maybe now we can bring them into the fold of operations at some capacity.

    • Belesari

      Like what? Its the chinese they are the ones who arm all our enemies either directly or indirectly.

      • cs4

        Wrong. It seems that you are the ones arming your own enemies. Remember Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan?

  • Nicky

    It’s a start, but they are nowhere near the Level of the USAF. They don’t have anything near the C-5M or the C-17

    • Mat

      Yes that is it US rules the cargo plane scene thats probably why you need to transport something you hire a Russian or Ukrainian cargo plane operator ,most likely Antonov design buro that operates their own fleet of An124 and An225 and in spare time freelance designing planes for the chinese.

      These guys know more about cargo plane design that anyone in the world.Why would anyone bother with C17 clone if they can get a better new design for less money? Cargo planes all look the same as form follows funcion.

  • Harry

    “The Y-20 looks a lot like the Boeing-built C-17” Except it’s missing the C-17’s cute winglets.

    There’s no way that the Chinese copied the C-17, you don’t think that they would have missed something as important as the winglets.

  • Mat

    As far as its known Antonov design buro codesigned the plane ,no need for anything form C17 ,just a bag of cash and ukrainians design you the plane you wan’t.

  • Lance

    BIG YAWN… So what? China’s coped everything the USA Russia and Western Europe makes. No news here im waiting more on there J-31 a F-35 copy.

    If China makes there own weapons with there own designs that be headlines.

    • Juuso

      DF series missiles comes to my mind and their new assault rifles. Radars etc…

  • Nicky

    But have you notice, the fact that the Chinese are doing a version of the C-141A Starlifter


    The Russian Il-76 came out in 1971, had 4 engines, high wing, T-tail, the same configuration as the C-17, which came 20 years later. By that account, C-17 itself is also a clone.

    If you look at a comparison between Il-76, C-17, and Y-20, I’ll say it bear more resemblance ti Il-76 than with C-17.

    With all due respect, please know something about aviation history, engineering, or do some basic research before you dismissing those Chinese engineers.

  • k.parks

    Thats simple,Clinton gave them our computer tech. info when he was in office.

  • Flash Gordon

    Why not just buy commercially available CFM 56 engines? The most reliable and best selling turbofan engine in the world, no one would stop them and they have modern and efficient engines, buy spares if required and you could always get them from there fleet of 737s, A320s, etc…

    • Joseph Tan
  • Kevin

    Actually, because of defense contracts (within a country or, as in Europe, the EEC) export rules would prevent export of “critical” defense technology. Not sure if the CFM 56 engine you write of would qualify in that respect, but things such as aircraft defensive systems would.

  • hikerguy

    The Chinese have the money now to buy the services of Russian aircraft designers as well as others to help in the developement of military projects. Despite what short comings the aircraft has as compared to western designs, I am sure the plane will meet the needs of the PLA air force just fine.
    Thing is, what are we doing to update current designs and develop new ones?

  • cosmo

    It suprise me to see DT’s comment on the Y-20 “The Y-20 looks a lot like the Boeing-built C-17”. If anything it looks more like Il-76 and to call it a clone? DT do some research before commenting on the Y-20. The plane was developed with Ukrainian Antonov Aeronautical Scientific/Technical Complex, the major research and development institute has provided much needed assistance in the development of Y-20 transport.

  • Frank

    Money makes the world go around and I can see U.S. dollar signs all over the development and production of this airplane. It is important to know that American business ventures in China made this possible while receiving tax breaks. You cannot be an American if you give aide and comfort to a country that supports Communism. What makes Business such an important part of the sales pitch to end the recession when it is only lining its pockets and hiding money at the average taxpayers expense?

    Friend of Col. David Hackworth

  • Valbonne

    Chinese Y20 is an improvement of II-76, why? Because the Chinese are using Russian equipment and it is natural for them to copy the equipment they are using. American has ban all advance technology to China for 30 years and they cannot get any sample of these advance products. How can they copy from America stock & barrel? Copy from Russian, yes but copy from America, no.

    • Danny Walsh
      • Valbonne

        It seems that every man with a moustache along the street looks like your own father if your father has a moustache.
        Likewise, every aircraft look similar is a C-17 clone to you. But, you have not seen what type of technology used by the Chinese inside the airplane. Be rational.

      • Thomas L. Nielsen

        “They hacked into Facebook twice and got a host of secrets from 27 of our fortune 500 co”.

        Keeping secrets on Facebook? I think I see the problem….

        Regards & all,

        Thomas L. Nielsen


    The Chinese can license what they want,this monster is pretty much an albatross,it might be a fine plane,but believe me its a sitting duck.I would imagine they have other uses in mind for this aircraft other then the obivious military uses-KMCCUNE

  • FtD

    you people sound like those from Cupertino the fruit company, it’s as if you own a patent on all cargo plane designs, get a grip, every other one looks similar that’s basic aerodynamic principle at work…. dah

    • patriot1

      Fom one who worked on the flightline for 21 years in the Air Force loading and unloading Cargo Aircraft you could not be more wrong. You do not have a clue wht your talking about. Every Cargo AIrcraft has different capabilites from the C130, C141, C17, KC10, etc. They are all not the same. You could not land a C5B on a short runway like you can a C130 which as 6 Pallet Positons.

  • 6113
  • britishraj
  • Guest

    They not only copied it, the Chinese had some inside information. China, however, still has a problem with their engine technology.

  • A6-e tech

    You retards just don’t get it… while you guys are comparing the size of your penis heads, your federal tax refunds will be delayed because of, wait, payments that are due to China, and of course, social security payment recipients…. but don’t forget, we are building $200 million dollar F-35’s that can what??? Make money dissapear from any radar… wake up, not only are we screwed, but our kids too…. thanks congress…

  • patriot1

    China needs these Cargo Planes to fly more manufactured Products back to the US from all the jobs we sent overseas.

  • D Gannon

    Like Donald Sutherland said ” very pretty Col., but can they fight”

  • P-38

    It’s developed mass troop movement capabilities…Red Dawn will be in 3D…like a pimp and his money…. Hence, where’s ma money Female dog! You get my drift?

  • vrns

    again… more like An-based, then C-17.

  • Baduyo

    Never surprises me that some are so narrow minded to not see reality. Why would ghe chinese have to develop a new cargo plane when they can walk onto any airport in china and copy any of their bought airliners. They have one of the most modern uptodate fleets anywhere in the world.

    • cs4

      And how many of those airliners can carry a 60+ ton tank?

  • Phono

    I do love the design of the Il-76

  • Baduyo

    Just how many of you have actually been to china and spent any time there; I have and lived there; They can buy anything they want from the world; As one mentioned, large engines are not a problem; They have one of the most up to date fleets of Commercial Airliners and Cargo Planes that I have ever flown on in the world. They can buy any engines they need; One must be stupid or have one’s head in the sand if they think that china is a real threat to the world “military”; Why would they want to destroy their own countries growth with such a stupid move; The only threat they are in the world is that they are buying everything away from the rest of the world to feed their people’s growing demand for goodies. One just needs to walk down the street in any major city; go into any department store and see the world of goods being sold to the “Poor” Chinese. I was shocked when I was there as they are actually doing more for their people in the way of everything than the US. Their parks are everywhere; green zones; goods; They have one way of doing things that is very impressive; The prices of local produced goods are lower than the cost of imported goods; Driving the local economic growth of the country; Not like ours driving all our work overseas; Try buying a US made car in China; A lot higher as any local made car; So the (Non- Rich) will only buy the local make item. One problem that is major in china is the youth; they do not want to no longer be told what to do by the communists; they also do not want to now work the farms and live out of the big cities; Many villages are nearly empty of youth; they are all in the big cities enjoying the good life; The internet is also everywhere; Goverment; while trying; no longer has the foot on the neck of the majority; Well worth a trip; not to SHanghai or Beijing; but internal large Cities where the chinese are not as influenced by the western tourists; ie. Chongqing (small city) population of county & City about 30 million.

  • bill

    Their spies are all up in our military network. I’m sure they’ll soon be able to copy everything we have and make their own version (remember the russians during the cold war?)


    Hell, we are so far in debt to the PRC I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t make a offer to buy our entire military and a place to put it…..

  • Iron Mike

    Chesty Puller once met Chiang Kai Chek, and told him that it didn’t matter where on the Chinese mainland an invasion force landed…only that the forces should concentrate, and drive for the enemy. The one piece of advice he gave the Generalissimo was to be sure to “put to death every Communist bastard he meets”. As long as America holds that maxim in mind, it won’t matter how many transport aircraft China has, regardless of quality. Semper Fi.

  • Jerrydog1001

    Well probably not the greatest airplane by any stretch, but I would say that most of China’s world interests are in undeveloped third world countries that still operate DC3s if they operate anything at all.

    I am surprised they just didn’t buy a C17 and reverse engineer/copy it and then deny they reverse engineered/copied it. The biggest problem, if you want to call it that is the Chinese are very good at copying things, stealing intellectual info and just outright buying decades of advance research by purchasing every tech company that comes on the market.

  • Jesse

    Stop with the heckling! These are the same kind of comments americans have been making before Pearl Harbor! Oh the japanese only know how to copy mickey mouse watches and sh*t…

    The US should be careful it will not fall victim to another surprise like what the japanese zero did to them.

    be ready at all times!

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  • Don Juan

    Nice vomit-colored paint job

  • LesG007

    Now, who will China get to fly these crates? You don’t really think they have the ability to perform a tactical or assault landing, do you?


    Ever see a Chinese NASCAR driver? Hell NO!!!

  • james

    Ladies and Gentlemen let us come and reason together as one mind and body, as they say a one world government . I say please give respect to our fellow brothers and sister in China. Great things are to come from our brothers and sisters in the maine land . If we can only respect one an others achievements and give place to the less forchent . We have come along way from the the caveman and rolling rock. We need to set aside evil judgements, and learn to care for our fellow man. sighed Native Indian American