Did Satellites Capture China's Mysterious Giant War Plane?

By Casey Chan on at

The GeoEye 1 and IKONOS spacecraft have captured satellite images of the mysterious Xian Aircraft Corporation Y-20, China's first long range jet transport. It shows the clearest image of the giant transport plane yet and reveals that China's plane looks a lot like the U.S. Air Force's C-17. That's not an accident.

The satellite images, which were obtained by Wired's Danger Room, show China's Y-20 as having the same "wide swept wing and T-shaped tail" as the Boeing made C-17. The blueprints of the C-17 were stolen by spies working for Boeing and given to China. This plane's design is a rip-off.

What China can't rip off though are the engines that are necessary to power the plane. Apparently, there are only four companies capable of building the kind of engines that the Y-20 needs. Three are Western companies (GE/CFM, Rolls Royce and Pratt & Whitney) and one is Russian. It's assumed that China will have to use Russian engines to lift its 200-tonne body (however, Russia is reluctant to sell engines to China because China might rip them off) and those engines may lack the performance in modern transport planes. So though the Y-20 may look like an American giant transport plane, it may actually be all show and no go. [Wired, Image Credit: GeoEye GeoEye 1]