4 US Military Weapons That China Reverse-Engineered

Many US weapons have almost identical Chinese counterparts that China built from stolen equipment or blueprints.
Black Hawk

There are several US weapons stolen by China. Actually, some of the most advanced weapons from the United States have been entirely copied.

And China has been spying on the US for decades to get its technology and make a Chinese version of the cutting-edge American weapons.

Cyber-attacks or spying from satellites are just some of the tactics China regularly uses to gain an edge over its rivals. The US is its preferred victim when stealing sensitive military information.


1. CQ Rifle: A reversed-engineered M-16 (AR-15)

Norinco CQ-A 20 Inch
Norinco CQ-A 20 Inch by MuricanAzn7. Licensed under CC by 4.0

The CQ is a Norinco-manufactured semi-automatic rifle patterned after the famous M16 or AR-15 – and it is one of the most popular weapons in China.

It has been exported to many countries worldwide at a lower price than its American counterpart. But, it has some differences after all.

The CQ has a distinctive handguard and stock and a unique curved pistol grip.


Despite these differences, the CQ remains a close clone of the M16 and is popular among shooters looking for an affordable alternative to the expensive, polemical and deadly American rifle.

2. Z-20 Helicopter: The Chinese version of the Black Hawk

The Z-20 is one of the top weapons stolen by China. It is a utility helicopter developed by AVIC Harbin Aircraft Industry for the People’s Liberation Army. 

The helicopter is based on the UH-60 Black Hawk and is considered a direct copy of the American design. The first Z-20 prototype took flight in 2013… and since 2019, is an integral part of the Chinese military.


While the exact capabilities of the Z-20 are unknown, it is assumed to be similar to the Black Hawk in terms of performance and payload capacity… And it’s very unlikely that it can surpass the original helicopter in technology and performance.

weapons stolen by China UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter
UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter by Katherine Milberry. Public Domain.

The Z-20 is powered by two turboshaft engines and is equipped with modern avionics and sensors. It can operate at high altitudes and in hot weather conditions and can be armed with various external stores.

3. Dongfeng EQ2050 Mengshi: The Chinese copy of the Humvee

Dongfeng EQ2050
Dongfeng EQ2050 by Navigator84. Licensed under CC by 4.0

With the Dongfeng EQ2050 Mengshi, it’s clear that China is serious about spying on American technology. 


The EQ2050 is a direct copy of the Humvee, right down to the square body and wide stance. Even the interior is identical, with the same dashboard layout and controls. 

However, there are some differences between the two vehicles. The most crucial difference is that the Dongfeng is cheaper than a Humvee. It costs around $93,000 when the original has a unit costs of $254,717.

Humvee wash
Humvee wash by Ken Scar. Public Domain.

But despite these minor differences, it’s evident that the EQ2050 is a plain copy of the iconic American military SUV.


4. Type 052D Destroyer: The Chinese Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer

Chinese destroyer Xi'an in Saint Petersburg
Chinese destroyer Xi’an in Saint Petersburg by Bestalex. Licensed under CC by 4.0

The People’s Liberation Army Navy operates a wide variety of vessels. One of the most advanced ships is the Type 052D destroyer.

The Type 052D is a guided-missile destroyer that was designed to take on a wide range of missions, from air defense and anti-submarine warfare to surface warfare and land attack.

The warship is equipped with an array of powerful weapons, including long-range missiles, torpedoes, and guns. It is so good because it is wholly modeled on the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, one of the most heavily armed ships in service worldwide.


USS Arleigh Burke
USS Arleigh Burke by Class Brittney Kinsey. Public Domain

There are more weapons stolen by China… But the US is a step ahead in technology

The Chinese military developers often have to wait for the United States to create a new weapon and then copy it. At least, it gives the U.S. military industry several years of developmental advantage over China – and this is a competitive advantage that the U.S. could use to its own benefit in the event of war.

However, all the weapons stolen by China are fully functional, and a good part of the American research and development goes directly to China.

Featured image credit: HH-60 BLACK HAWK HELICOPTER FLIGHT by Austin Berner. Public Domain.


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