China’s Fighters, Drone Look Like U.S. Aircraft

Wing Loong

PARIS — China’s models of military planes at the Paris Air Show bear resemblance to U.S. aircraft, drawing attention to the rising concern in the Defense Department that the country is using cyber espionage to obtain sensitive defense technology.

The state-run Aviation Industry Corporation of China had a large exhibit of military and civilian models of aircraft at the show, held outside Paris at the historic Le Bourget airfield.

The display included three fighters and a drone: a single-seat version of the FC-1, a single-engine fighter built for the Pakistani air force and designated JF-17; a dual-seat variant of the FC-1 in development; the dual-seat, twin-engine L-15 trainer; and an unmanned system called Wing Loong.

The fighters looked like the F-16 made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and the drone bore resemblance to the MQ-1 Predator made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., without the inverted tail. The Chinese drone is designed as a low-altitude craft that can fly up to 16,500 feet and loiter for 20 hours.

A spokesman from the Beijing-based corporation was quick to note that the FC-1 is “a lot cheaper than the F-16,” though he declined to provide a figure. The man gave a brief overview of the systems to but declined to be named, citing corporation policy.

Notably missing from the exhibit was any display of the J-20, China’s classified stealth-fighter program.

During talks this month at an estate in Rancho Mirage, Calif., President Barack Obama reportedly warned the new Chinese President Xi Jinping that cyber attacks against the U.S. threaten the two countries’ strategic relationship. Xi insisted China is also the victim of computer hacking.

Obama faced pressure to raise the issue after the recent leak of a classified section of a Defense Department report showed that designs for the most advanced U.S. weapons have been compromised by suspected Chinese hackers. The list of weaponry includes the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Littoral Combat Ship, and the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, among others.

The Pentagon in its latest annual assessment of China’s armed forces for the first time blamed China directly for targeting its computer networks. The attacks were focused on extracting information, including sensitive defense technology.

“In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military,” it states. “The accesses and skills required for these intrusions are similar to those necessary to conduct computer network attacks.”

That document also concluded that the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA, considers the strategy of “information dominance” a critical form of defense against countries that it views as “information dependent,” such as the U.S.

China called the accusations “groundless” and “not in line with the efforts made by both sides to strengthen mutual trust and cooperation,” according to a May 9 article published on the state-run website, “People’s Daily Online.” The country is a “victim itself of cyberattacks,” it states.

A Chinese espionage group since 2006 has stolen hundreds of terabytes of information from at least 141 companies across 20 major industries, including aerospace and defense, according to a February report from Mandiant, a closely held company based in Alexandria, Va., which sells information-security services.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • hibeam

    China’s Fighters, Drone Look Like U.S. Aircraft. Astonishing! Could this have anything to do with the incompetent bozo’s who allowed all of our top secret data to be downloaded into China? I hope those people are on paid leave now. They deserve to be punished.

  • Ben

    They’re just poor copies of outdated platforms. No big deal.

    • Jeff

      I agree, F-35 really is a piece of crap.

    • Restore Palestine

      Which one did you say was a copy of the F-35? The FC-17? That’s a low cost light fighter jet designed to be an aerodynamic equal to the F-16. If I were to wager on a dog fight between the F-35 and the FC-17, I’ll pick the FC-17.

      A more similar looking jet might be the J-31, but again, that will most probably be superior to the F-35 in dog fight as well, because it has two engines.

    • marv

      The F-35 is not exactly outdated; rather, it’s a poorly conceived and poorly designed expensive piece of junk.

      Interestingly, your assessment of them as “poor copies” are still correct, in a different sense, namely, they bear little true resemblance to the F-35 other than their outside appearance. The Chinese only copy ones that are well-designed, low-cost, and easily mass-produced, like the Mig-19, Mig-21, Su-27. They are too smart to be copying expensive junks like the F-35 and F-22.

  • blight_

    I’ll believe it once they start militarizing those GE engines built in China.

  • Tony C.

    The Chinese already copied all of the Russian designs, now they want new ones.
    The Chinese have a copy of teh Eurofighter also.

  • John Moore

    I hope they are planting false networks and feeding them 1/3 truth mixed in with 2/3 bull which hopefully comes back to bite the CH in the end.

  • Edger

    DUH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! China been copying Russian and NATO designs since the PRC was born. think of it all hte MiGs they copies there new Stealth fighter looks too much like a F-35A. Face it CHina’s never made a ral design of there own.

  • carlos

    It’s a good thing for them to copy our systems, this way we know what they have, capabilities and how to defend against it. Otherwise we’d have to rely on espionage to figure out what they have…

  • strumpanzer

    China can’t innovate so they have to replicate.

  • CDD

    1. Of course they look similar; they’re designed for a similar purpose.
    2. All countries copy things when they’re starting from behind. America copied a lot from German rocket technology and then, with time and money they took it much further. Exciting to think where China will take American technology now it is they who have the money.

    • Dequilla

      Actually the Germans copy American rocket design.

      • Pleuris

        Know your History… remember werner von Braun? Sounds really German Right?


        Just like the jet engine, right? Hang on, wait.

      • Jeff

        Right, and Herr Doktor Werner von Braun was just a cheap clone of Doctor Warner Van Brown. Them Krauts, always travel to the future to copy what will be produced in the future.

    • Bad Bob

      Exciting? Yes . . . I am a little . . . excited . . . to think where they might take the results of their STOLEN military technology . . . Remember they threatened to “rain down fire on Los Angeles,” and remember that they arm our street gangs, steal our technology, manipulate the markets, dishonor trade agreements, dump junk on the markets they are demanding be opened to them while they close their own markets to any company not Chinese-“partnered,” . . .
      Yes, I am a bit excited to think where exactly they might take that technology.

  • CDD2013

    1. Of course they look similar; they’re designed for a similar purpose.
    2. All countries copy things when they’re starting from behind. America copied a lot from German rocket technology and then, with time and money they took it much further. Exciting to think where China will take American technology now it is they who have the money.

  • Professor Ski!!!

    Lets just nuke while we still have the stocks to do it with, before the guy with big ears takes it all away, sayying a piece treaty will keep nukes from flying at us. Mr. President remember your history!

  • Peter

    Maybe I’m taking the wromg view here but one thing I can’t understand. It looks simple to me but surely if you have computer systems holding information this sensitive then why is that system EVER connected to the net?

    OK, I’m not a major world power but I have a laptop that I use for my work. That laptop (or at least the software on it) is so valuable to me that I never, ever connect it to the internet. Anything that goes in it is loaded by DVD or Zipdrive after it has been scanned first.

    Am I wrong or is this really not rocket science?

  • djwork

    “and an unmanned system called Wing Loong.”
    Almost as funny as the name nodong for a missle


    NO WAY! Its not like China has been hacking US defense contractors, and government agencies, in an attempt to get information to make these cheap Air Hogs. Obviously.

  • david

    Big surprise. China, Russia and Israel have always done all they can to steal American secrets.

  • blight_

    I guess if we were out of the sneaky reverse-engineering business, we’d have to clean Tonopah out. Goodbye S-300. Goodbye radars. Goodbye Migs and Sukhois. Goodbye ELINT aircraft designed to analyze enemy radars.

    Did I miss something? That said, the US will still steal stuff, even if it’s perceived as lower-technology. Why? Knowledge is power.

  • johnvarry

    The FC-1/JF-17 is hardly new. First flight was 2003 and entered service with PAF in 2010.

  • mr. murica

    they are copying what we have on the coasts, probably missing things, and lowering quality.
    china obviously hasn’t gone further than us in technology. if these are the things the military is showing us, imagine what our military really has

  • Stratege

    Well, about their J-20 aircraft, It looks it have an relatively original airframe (not an “rivet-to-rivet” stolen design). But its canopy looks almost like an exactly copy of the F-22’s canopy… Of course Chinese are using foreign ideas, but i don’t believe that Chinese can’t innovate at all.

  • Franklin

    I can’t believe the paranoia, and the fear of some of these people. Do they really think any of this is new and has not been happening for a long time. America has always and will always lead the world.


    Well look at it this way, now we can send our predators to conduct surveillance all over china! and the chinese will think its one of theirs! what more in time of war!

    • inside man

      haha and then maybe we can attach small hydrogen bombs to its deployment system while we are at it :)

    • Bad Bob

      That goes both ways. They can set us up in some major ways. Remember they are masters of deception, as all communists are.

  • Joe Morris

    What does DOD expect when the computers they use are most likely “made in China”?

  • So Snowden is a hero? So you hate top secrets by our government? President Obama should tell everything we are doing to the public. Now you complain because China has a direct link to all our sensitive data? Why are some Americans so stupid??

    • Rest Pal

      Snowden is absolutely a hero.

      Anyone who says otherwise is an accessory to crimes by the government against the people.

    • Jeff

      Snowden is already much more of a hero than you will ever wish to be. Snowden knows his US Constitution for a start, whereas you do NOT.

    • James Robinson

      If you are a Major you are living proof that sh__ rises to the top, or in your case the middle. Are we to believe that each of the “Millions” that NSA snooped on were threats to our nation? There aren’t that many terrorists in the Middle East countries combined. Are we to believe that an Attorney General, CIA Director or NSA Director that lie repeatedly have the best interests of the American people at heart? As one who once held a Top Secret clearance (yes I know-relatively low on the Security Totem Pole) I know there are reasons for keeping things quiet and confidential. But when it comes to violating the rights of law abiding citizens because some dickhead in the intelligence community thinks there is a Boogey Man behind every tree, then it’s time this crap stops!

    • rule of law

      We don’t hate top secrets, we love them and that’s why we want to know everything about them. The government is not supposed to keep secrets from its citizens, not US government anyway because we have long advocated OPEN government, here and abroad.

      It’s a sheer hypocrisy for the US government to secretly conduct unconstitutional wiretapping and spying while at the same time accuse other countries of doing the same thing. It’s simply disgusting.

      I suppose you hate spying? Not that the leaked info shows that there are a bunch of criminals working in the NSA, would you support arrest warrants for NSA officials by victim countries like Russia and China? Or is it illegal only other countries are doing it??

      • rule of law

        Correction: meant to say “It’s sheer hypocrisy” (second paragraph) and “Now that the leaked info shows …” (third paragraph).

    • Louis

      Snowden is a coward and a traitor as far as I’m concerned, if he truly believes in what he did and america can tuly accept homegrown traitors working in places with secrets then come home and take your ass whipping like a man. All the papers and rights activist in the world will be their to take the pain away, our parents and government set rules in their house for your protection and theirs you wanna break those rules and be your own man then you no longer need their help too face the world or will he just be another Benedict Arnold who dies in silence in a foreign.

    • blight_

      Echelon’s been known for a while, and anyone assuming the NSA would sit on their laurels and ignore the internet is silly.

      Someone revealing that the NSA finally has enough computational capability to /rapidly decide/ would be the bigger leaker. Just because you /can/ do something, vs doing something in a /timely/ fashion…?

  • truths4all

    Zero surprise here. It is clear the Obama administration has been lax and derelict in securing our military designs and secrets from the Chinese.

    I only wish that some designer would make up a totally nonsensical design, then designate it to be Top Secret and watch and wait to see how long before the Chinese and Russians trot out their version of the faker design. Betcha it would only be a matter of months.

  • JohnB

    One of the most embarrassing scenarios is when you are beaten in your own games, by your own stick, right at your home, and in front of the wife and kids — Sun Tzu page 101.

  • brok3n

    FC-1 = Northrop F-20 Tigershark
    Yilong = General Atomics Reaper/Predator
    L-15 = YAK-130 / M-346

  • eagle275

    So when will Biden be brought up on charges of treason for spilling the beans on the SEAL’s that were in the chopper that was shot down,eh. Or the details Obama gave out for a GD movie? I say find the biggest tree for all of these thugs.

  • Matt

    This is bad. If they have compromised our most sensitive systems like AEGIS and F35, then imagine what they got that our government isn’t telling us. Classified and black programs. They most likely got it all. Sub technology, stealth technology. Why not? Everything has been compromised. Even the private sector tech has been completely stolen.

    They have everything. Like “carlos” said at least we know what they have. And I would like to think we had some back door defenses on stolen files or sabotage capability. Doubtful.

  • Bill

    The reason why they are so cheap is, when you don’t have to put in the R&D, the overhead decreases. China are thieves. Equate them with the Ferangie.

    • Restore Palestine

      When it comes to stealing, China is nothing compared to the US, which steals hundreds of billions of dollars a year from other countries, including China, Japan, Korea, and Saudi Arabia.

  • Papi1960R

    Hopefully our government will learn from this. Why should we waste $billions on developing products when we could hire a bunch of hackers for a few thousand each year to “acquire” our new designs. We are so stupid.

  • hibeam

    The Chinese are building up their military in a big way. I can only assume someone made a hateful video.

  • GeneralA

    Time for a different approach to China simply this invest and developed West, South Central Africa and Mexico to manufacture goods so we can buy from them and leave China alone for good. Stop trading and buying from China period!

  • Stratege

    Once i heard story how the US designed made almost exact copy of the Soviet pontoon bridge…


    Just hack the commies and keep your mouths shut, espionage is all about wrecking the other guy before he makes you look stupid and weak……..are we to late?

  • android5000

    So what else is new?

  • Louis

    Snowden is a coward and a traitor as far as I’m concerned, if he truly believes in what he did and america can tuly accept homegrown traitors working in places with secrets then come home and take your ass whipping like a man. All the papers and rights activist in the world will be their to take the pain away, our parents and government set rules in their house for your protection and theirs you wanna break those rules and be your own man then you no longer need their help too face the world or will he just be another Benedict Arnold who dies in silence in a foreign land.

    • Jeff

      No, you are a coward and a traitor, as far as I’m concerned.

  • Chimp

    The JF-17 isn’t a copy of anything, as far as I can tell. It’s got little hints of features from all over (LERX, DVI) but it’s in essence a fairly conventional lightweight jet fighter that was built out of modern composites, fitted with good enough engines and avionics, and delivered on time, under budget and fit for purpose.

    Now, they didn’t copy that from the USA, did they…

    • brok3n

      Overall design resembles the now defunct F-20 Tigershark, DSI’s stolen from the F-35.

  • johnbbroke

    Of course the Chinese aircraft resemble U.S. aircraft, can’t point fingers how, so they must have stumbled across U.S. aircraft on the internet LOL.

    A quote from Gen. Keith Alexander, Chief of U.S. Cyber Comman d and Dir of NSA said: That the loss of intellectual property due to cyber attacks amounts to the “greatest transfer of wealth in human history.”

    To me, that means they stold the farm, what probably cost the U.S. tax payer trillions they (whomever) got everything for nothing.

  • wellduh

    B.S. The US is intentionally giving China these designs. That is the only conclusion possible for hiring and rehiring Chinese nationals who aren’t even naturalized at places that produce nuclear weapons. Then after being caught shipppng secrets one time that same person is rehired. For those of you who remember trends starting in 1990s.

    Why? Hard to say what LSD dreams the State Department is working with. Chinese allies against Russians?

    Or is it just DOD trying to get new toys faster. if enemy is falling behind in arms race …give them some of your designs that are going stale. F-22 Raptor was pushed through Congress based on rumors Chinese were copying upgraded F-15 with vector nozzles.

  • crm114

    They only look like the F16 if I ignore any actual pictures, close both eyes, and engage maximum imagination.

  • NeoconBrony

    If the Chinese did steal F-35 designs and they can actually get the damned thing to work, then props to them I guess.

  • LoveUSA

    The USA is building a fighter bomber that evades radar, flies faster and thus able to drop precision munitions at will – an aircraft that will give it remarkable advantage if deployed in battle. That a foreign nation is trying to steal design and engineering secrets of this warbird by remarkable cyber spyware American become so incredulous and sanctimonious – well people what did you expect them to do? Isn’t that what spy craft is for anyway? It is the game. Perhap we have watched too many Hollywood movies and the action hero spies are all too busy saving the world from evil instead of doing what is normal for spies – espionage!

  • limhui

    Well, just put it this way. All the world know that US is the culprit of computer hacking. Even its own citizens are treated as suspects. So much for land of the free. Anyway, now the US accused China of hacking its military secrets. My question is if the US is so good at its technology, how can its computer be hacked. Assuming China can access you computer, then don’t you think China is superior than the US in computer. If this so, what make the US think that China can not make jet better than F-35? That’s what happen when stupidity is combined with arrogance. The result is a country called the USA.

  • LindaBodicea

    Since paper and gunpowder, the Chinese have invented nothing. They are not an innovative culture nor race. Lowest ratio of Nobel Prize winners per population outside of Africa.

  • Henry

    This isn’t new. Look back at the US F-15, F-22, F-35, and they just look too much alike. Makes you think some designs are being shared, stolen, sold or something. It can’t just be coincidence or the result of common logical technology.

  • E.fulton

    The Chinese will always try to steal our tech just like we will take whatever new tech that we can use from any1 else. Can’t be mad if u got a better pistol then me then I want yours but I see you looking at my rifle an try to hide it cause it far superior to yours…everyone wants the best…USA is jus used to haven it an need to remember envy an want move the world too

  • E.fulton

    It has to do with people in general they are selfish meaning full of self..there is no United States anymore its just a hole lot of people out for self…no unity…no pride in country…an no praise from ur country rather. It’s sad really

  • Jaeger

    fighter planes will be replaced by drones, and china is stealing it, let them, because the next stage of technological revolution is already being dreamed of by our young minds and will be made available in 20 years or so.

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