In what has become an almost annual Christmas tradition, the Chinese military has released the first blurry photos of a brand-new warplane prototype — in this case, Beijing’s first home-built heavy transport. It closely resembles other aircraft in its class including, most notably, the U.S. Air Force’s workhorse C-17.
In theory, the new plane could give China the same global military reach the U.S. enjoys thanks it its own huge transport force. But as usual with new Chinese planes, at this early stage there are more questions than answers. Especially since prototypes can appear impressive without being actually useful.
The jet-powered, four-engine cargo plane, reportedly designated Y-20, can be seen on the ground in a series of photos apparently snapped at long range at the Xian Aircraft Corporation’s Yanliang airfield in east-central China and posted to popular Internet forums. Although portrayed as the work of enthusiasts, postings on these forums are often scripted by the Chinese government as a way of building excitement about new weapons developments.