Watch China's Very Familiar-Looking Next Generation Fighter Jet
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Image: US Naval Institute
You can be forgiven for thinking you're watching an F-23 or an F-22 rolling coal in the video above. It's not—the number of engines and the shape of the intakes are probably the most visible tip-offs. It's a Chinese J-31, warming up for an appearance at the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai next week.
The resemblance between the Chinese jet and its slightly older American counterparts is pretty uncanny though. USNI News quoted one Air Force operational test pilot as saying, "they sure look like F-35 and F-22s don't they?"
It's easier to speculate how China would get plans for the F-35 than it is to speculate on why they'd want to copy an airplane that's mostly known for being terrible.
In July, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested a Chinese citizen named Su Bin, who had been living in Canada, after the FBI filed a complaint against him in a US District Court in Los Angeles.
According to the criminal complaint, Su was accused of "working with two unnamed Chinese hackers to get the data between 2009 and 2013." The hackers were accused of hacking, translating, and selling data to Chinese companies on American fighter jet programs including the F-22 and the F-23, as well as Boeing's C-17 cargo jet.
Sure, that's one way it could've happened. Also, you know, convergent evolution is a thing. And while it's doubtful that the US is planning to go to war with its second-biggest trading partner, if the the F-35 was all just a scheme to get China to spend what amounts to three years of its defense budget to develop the same inept fighter jets, well, there are worse strategies.