China’s aviation technology gap may have closed somewhat in recent days with announcements of some breakthroughs that may make it less dependent on the West for stuff it needs to advance its aerospace industry. Just after Christmas, photos were “leaked” of what appears to be the country’s most ambitious aircraft to date, the Y-20 transport. The photos, purported to be of a test aircraft undergoing taxi tests, outwardly show a clone of Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster, although the engine openings on the Chinese version are considerably smaller than the high-bypass turbofans on the C-17. If the performance of the Y-20 comes anywhere close to that of the C-17, China will soon have a long-range, heavy-lift capacity it has so far lacked in home-grown aircraft, but skeptics abound. Nevertheless, China does appear to be moving forward with development of some key technologies needed to build truly modern aircraft.
Taiwanese newspaper Want China Times quotes a Chinese publication as saying a research unit of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) has made a breakthrough in mass producing the high-temperature alloys needed for high-performance jet engines. That could mean the country could start producing its own state-of-the-art jets within five years. It now uses Russian engines to power its latest fighters, the J-20 and J-31.