China Copies, I mean Creates, a C-17 Transport Plane Clone – Was it Cyber Espionage?

China announces C-17

China is working on a new transport plane dubbed the Y-20. The plane was supposedly developed by a joint program with Russia involving the Russian IL-76, but early photos show that it looks a lot more like the America C-17. Was the plans for the plane gained in Cyber Espionage attacks, or where they stolen the “Old Fashion Way”?

China’s Ministry of Defense spokesman Yang Yujun recently announced the development of the Y-20 heavy transport cargo plane. According to CNTV.cn The spokesman stated that “the advanced long-range aircraft is being developed to be used in disaster relief work and humanitarian emergency situations” and that “the research and development of the large transport aircraft is going forward as planned.”

Blurry photos of the Y-20 leaked on Christmas Eve to an aviation site seemed to bear a strong resemblance to the C-17:

Chinas Y-20

Several of China’s new military toys seem to look a lot like their American counter-part. Some think this is due to the heavy cyber espionage campaign that China has waged against American military contractor sites and other allied design companies around the world.

So it would seem that the Y-20, like the new Russian stealth fighter, was made from plans stolen from American designers. Surprisingly though, it may not have been a case of cyber espionage in this instance. They actually could have been obtained the “Old-Fashioned” way.

Back in February 2008 Dongfan “Greg” Chung, an ex-Boeing engineer, was tried and convicted for economic espionage. Seems he had over 200,000 pages of sensitive pages in his home. The material included information about Boeing developed aerospace and defense technologies. These included documents about the Space Shuttle, Delta IV rocket and interestingly enough, the C-17 Globemaster troop transport.

Apparently the 78 year old Chinese born spy started pilfering American secrets in the 1970’s. It is amazing to me that China has been actively targeting our military secrets for that long!

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China’s Military Buildup and Cyber Attacks

From Foxnews:

“The pace and scope of China’s sustained military investments have allowed China to pursue capabilities that we believe are potentially destabilizing to regional military balances, increase the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation and may contribute to regional tensions and anxieties,” said Michael Schiffer, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia.

According to the article, China spent $160 Billion for defense in 2010. Add to this the huge volume of technical and military information that China is believed to have siphoned in cyber attacks against the US and our allies.

The US imported $364.9 Billion from China in 2010. China cites our trade relations with Taiwan as a threat, but it appears that we only exported about $26 Billion to them in 2010. One would have to ask why one of our largest trading partners sees us as a threat?