A U.S. Apache attack helicopter appears in China. Did they clone it?

Oct 14 2013 - 74 Comments

Images have surfaced on the Chinese Internet of what seems to be an actual AH-64D Apache or a real-size copy of the world’s most famous attack chopper.

The helicopter, on a truck, seems to be in the process of being moved even if it is at least strange that it is not hidden below a protective covering, as happened for other mysterious choppers spotted on the move in China.

It’s not easy to guess how Beijing put their hands on the helicopter. It could be one of the U.S. Army Apaches downed or crash landed in Iraq, that was later fixed and exported in China.

A famous episode is the one of the AH-64 shot down intact during the 2003 attack on Karbala, during which the two US pilots were captured and shown on television along with the helicopter: still, Pentagon later stated the Apache had been destroyed with an airstrike the day following the capture.

Or, it may be a perfect copy of the Boeing AH-64: China has already shown its ability to create clones of the American most advanced weapons systems.

Image via Chinadefense blog. H/T to Ugo Crisponi for the heads-up

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  • Sam Reynolds

    Could this be a prop for a movie?

    • Carlo Baker

      It was a pet project done by a high ranking army officer. It’s not really that close to the real thing if you compare them. It’s been sitting in their aviation museum for about 13 years.

  • chloemeeny::

    secretly buying china some love

  • bryon

    the front looks a little odd, also it doesnt look like it has attachments for the wings, the engines look a little weird and also the back seat window looks a little small

    • Sam G.

      Agreed. Also, the cheek fairings are too short (on a normal Apache, they extend beyond the front of the engine nacelles). This particular helicopter is also missing its tailwheel – and the tail rotor blades are too far apart.

  • Antonio Valencia

    “Another oddity is a replica of an AH-64 Apache. A Chinese colonel
    allegedly fabricated the life-size model in his spare time! When I first
    saw it in 2001 I couldn’t believe my eyes, until I realized it was a
    fake. It is on display next to a Mi-24 Hind in wild camouflage, which
    has bullet-holes in the Perspex of its front cockpit.”


    • jm

      Cool. Here’s a video of the Chinese museum replica at 6:40, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9wbYM-bYWs.

      • Ugo

        NIce video. However the replica that is clearly visible on this video [6:42] confirm that it’s a (bad) A model copy. The one form the article is definitely a D model and at least a prefect replica. Compare to this graphic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aviationgraphic/9644032843/sizes/o/in/set-72157624833127614/

        D model can fastly be identified by the larger gondola under the cockpit that almost hide the arm of the landing gear compared to the A model and from the lights over the engines, not visible on the A model, not even in the bad replica of the museum.

    • Ugo

      I don’t think it’s the same on: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bertreiheld/1481456748/lightbox/ The one at the museum is an A model, narrow windshield and the tyre are very small. The one above is a D model with real size wheels. Definitely another one

      • Thomas Munk

        Yes, you are right. Here is the old model from the other side: http://www.lockonaviation.net/html/showphoto.php?id=893

        This new AH-64D still looks like a model for the museum though. Note the braces/struts on the landing gear (It might be straps to hold it down however) and the tail rotor which seem to be crossed at a wrong angle.

  • Stijn Vandamme

    i’m calling BS, if it were a real one, they would not transport it out in the open like that.

    • davisnet

      Why not? They don’t fear us anymore. In their eyes they OWN us…

      • d0x360

        That’s such a load of bs. China can’t exist without us and our love of cheap horribly built junk. On the other hand we could live without them. Who do you think pays for all of chinas toys? Its me and you and anyone else who buys ANYTHING made in China.

        • China_Rising

          Wrong again.

          15% of Chinese exports go the US. Check your facts.

          • ISA

            Americans will use any excuse from the actual reality that would save them. Blind arrogance is the only culture America has. More like “arrogant ignorance”. To think this used to be the only super power in the World, just a few years ago. A few years more, and there will be nothing left of it.

            • dkspec

              lol… he thinks the U.S. will be gone in a few years.

        • hostage707

          China does not need us. They have 1.5 BILLION consumers within their borders. Now that they have kind of figured out capitalism, its game over.

          • Delta_6

            Chinese doesn’t just build junks…even Iphones and our PCs at home were build by them…virtually almost everything.

          • Alex

            China is totally screwed. Their entire economy is a gigantic construction ponzi scheme financed by a level of financial fraud that makes Madoff look honest. To wit: 70% of their GDP is the “i” (investment) input; 60% of their GDP is construction alone. They have entire cities, designed for millions of people, that sit completely empty. They literally have a copy of Paris – and it’s totally empty. They build another ~30 of these cities a year, and every year they MUST build more than the year before or their GDP drops and the tens of millions of young men with no women to get married to are unemployed and start rioting.

            Read “Red Capitalism” by Walter and Howie. Do a youtube search on China and Jim Chanos (famous hedge fund manager who specializes in short selling, made his career by calling out Enron when no one else would). The coming Chinese implosion is going to make the USSR collapse look like a joke.

        • Typhoon

          China is now GM largest customer & so is Boeing besides US.
          Apple, Dell, HP, Caterpillar, Cummins, Starbucks, Kentucky and a host of major US Corporation depends on the growing Chinese market.
          Now, even your Tourism Dept is trying to attract more Chinese Tourists who are the biggest spenders of all.
          China is now US 3rd largest export market. Soon it will eclipse Mexico to be No. 2. For US, China offer the fastest growing market, growing 294% from 2002 to 2012. Your future job might depend on China..
          Do some home work before you shoot from your mouth.

          • chylene6599

            I do believe he is right. The US is just started a renaissance; China is starting a massive economic collapse; you seem to forget, they have screwed themselves over royally, because in about forty years, when those young men start growing old and can’r work anymore, they’ll have nothing but foreigners able to fill the huge vacancy in their labor market, since none of them were allowed to make baby Chinese.

      • Grutch

        they DO own us.. 1.5 Trillion in Bonds! Default a Coming!

    • OldManPar

      Or, they might just to show the world that they have them too.

    • TerryHuggles

      ….and why not? All US aircraft have transponders to guide missiles in hidden within. The Chinese with take that helicopter to pieces and replicate and improve it.

      • Stijn Vandamme

        Because they would not do such a reverse engineering out in the open.
        What use is a reverse engineering if the enemy knows you have one and reverse engineered it. It only motivates the enemy to replace that technology quicker at which point you loose the advantage.

        When the Allies cracked the Enigma code,did they announce it to the Germans “hey, btw, we cracked your codes!” no. it was deemed top secret, to the point where they sometimes did not act on intelligence captures with those codes so the Germans wouldn’t know that Enigma was cracked.

        If you do something like this, you cover it up, you keep it in the dark. To ensure you get the most benefit of whatever it is you stole and reverse engineered.

        • TerryHuggles

          My point is that all high value weapons like aircraft sold by the US have transponders so there is no point in hiding them. China would have bought the Apache from a third country like Israel. You do know Israel sells American technology through the back door?

          Further still, it really is not relevant that the US reversed engineered the Apache because it will be reproduced and used widely and not hidden.

          How much did it cost the US to develop the Apache? $10 billion, $20 billion? China will probably develop fleets for a few hundred millions.

          • Stijn Vandamme

            transponders don’t run without batteries
            batteries run out
            batteries can be disconnected and transponders can be turned off.

            It’s not a hollywood homing beacon you know.

            • TerryHuggles

              You can’t switch off these aircraft dead. There are important systems kept on 24/7 and if for some reason all power is removed, the manufacturers will have to switch on and reboot systems.

          • chylene6599

            They probably have a great, big 3D printer and slap them out by the dozens. (Snicker)

  • ZimJim

    Guess the consensus is that its just a ruse to cause a flap at the Pentagon.
    Them “Pesky Chinese” like to cause a stir in the “Decadent West”!
    All part of the game I suppose.

    • Little Franks

      I might say disgruntlement in Egypt would be a counter argument but China putting in the open like that kills 1 bird with 2 stones.

  • NorthernPaladin

    Yes but it’s made in China. It will either rust out or quit working from poor quality parts within a year.

    • davisnet

      and will get the pilots sick from lead in the paint…

    • Carlo Baker

      China can make extremely cheap products but they also make some of the most sophisticated products on the planet. As far as the high tech arms they are cloning you can assume they will be made in their best factories and after a few runs be better than the original. If that doesn’t bother you then you don’t understand how much they can out produce us.

      • d0x360

        Only because we sent our manufacturing to them. If we wanted we could out produce them and without all our ideas and money they would be screwed.

        • Jim Bob

          Problem is we can’t at this point because we outsourced manufacturing for too long.

      • davisnet

        Assembling a product and actually designing a product are two entirely different things. China has figured out how to clone just about everything but they rarely come up with anything original on their own. Originality only comes from free thinkers which China’s Government purposely prevents to remain in control of the people…

        • Carlo Baker

          When you have a hellfire missile heading at you go ahead and take the time to see if it is a clone or original ;)

    • Stijn Vandamme

      chinese build quality of parts in the 90’ies, yes, these days they make parts to good quality standards.. They have learned to apply a lot of QC the last 10 years..

  • Faye

    Since they are so smart about coping things, why do they create so much junk for people to buy? I think is it BS or photoshopped.

    • Steve

      They can actually build things to very high standards if they wish to. I own a Chinese PolyTech rifle that is made extremely well made. It will also function if it is dirty and neglected if need be. The M16 I was issued in the U.S. Army certainly wasn’t as reliable or well-made in my very experienced opinion. It left me with my “britches down” on more than one occasion, unfortunately….

      The Chinese create “so much junk for people to buy” because they produce items to the quality and price level that the importers of said junk (i.e. Walmart) demand. This is why one can get a 32-inch Chinese-made TV for $269.95, whereas an American-made one would have cost around $1,000 or so back when I was a kid in the 70s.

  • dg

    I thought Boeing sold Indonisia 16 – 8 flight ready and 8 to be a start of production line???

    • dg

      They did Oct 6/2013 Jakarta Globe. They paid 500 million for 8. Check it out its in there archives. Compliments there squadron Sukoi-27 fighters.

  • jm

    Actually, here is a thread from March 2012 with the same photos. http://www.defence.pk/forums/military-photos-multimedia/163261-china-new-secret-helo-project-copy-us-apache-ah64.html

    and it seems to be based off this thread here: http://www.network54.com/Forum/211833/thread/1330777089/1330890528/

    This sheds no light on anything, except the photos aren’t new.

  • weavty1

    This happened more than a year ago, apparently…. March of 2012


  • JTurk

    I was in China earlier this year and visited the China Aviation Museum just outside of Beijing. It is an old Cold War air base with numerous exhibits including, to my surprise an Apache helicoptor inside the mountain hangar . On closer inspection it was made of timber and perspecs.
    The image looks spot on to be outside the main hangar of this museum

  • Jorge Medina

    Im no rocket scientist or anything like that but I’m pretty sure they can just order one from Boeing.

  • Thomas Munk

    This is the 1/1 scale AH-64 model built by an enthusiastic PLAAF colonel sometime in the late 90s. It has been on display at the PLAAF museum at Datangshan ever since, where this photo was taken. Here is a better photo of it inside the cave at Datangshan: http://www.flickr.com/photos/12213725@N03/1481456748

  • Tommy

    It’s a freebie from the US government… as they have ran out of interest money for the bonds China own. LOL

  • Johnny

    I am a Chinese.I don’t have any words to say about you western guy…..Really don’t know nothing about China.hahahahah…LOL.
    You don’t know there are things called model,props…….I can show you hundreds of thousand of those..
    Crazy you people.

  • Saiphion

    It is Apache, real one, but it still has Legacy sighting system, so it probably is one that US sold to other countries. Wings been removed, all external antenna and sensor has been removed, gun removed. So it pretty much just the basic structure. But it also could one of allied aircraft crahed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

  • Truthiness

    Who cares? American Apaches spend most of their time in the hangars undergoing maintenance. The only thing less reliable than a Boeing Apache would be a Chinese knock-off.

    • Youhavenoideaaboutapaches

      Tell that to the thousands of dead Taliban slain by the Apache

      • Truthiness

        Thousands is a gross overstatement. The AH-6, MH-60, UH-1, and AH-1 have all likely matched any body count accumulated by the AH-64 Hangar Queen. I’ve spent over 2 years deployed with Apaches as a Senior Army Aviator. What are your credentials?

  • sleeplessinva

    Probably got an advanced copy of Battle Field 4 or Arma 3 and studied from that. :P

  • Jim Bob

    China’s cyber-espionage might have contributed to this and other military cloning projects.