China's New Drone May Be Based On Stolen US Blueprints
'Basically a clone of the Reaper'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 30, 2015 3:50 PM CST
China may have stolen the designs for the US' MQ-9 Reaper, seen here, to build its newest military drone.   (AP Photo/Lt. Col.. Leslie Pratt, US Air Force, File)

(Newser) – China is closing the drone-gap with the US military, and it may be thanks to stolen designs. The Asia Times reports China's newly unveiled UAV—the Caihong-4—bears a striking resemblance to the US military's MQ-9 Reaper, especially it its size, landing gear, engine, and tail. The Caihong-4—its name means "rainbow"—made its combat debut this month, blowing up an ISIS position for Iraqi forces, the New York Times reports. “This is the first time I’ve heard of a Chinese drone, such as the CH-4 (which is basically a clone of the Reaper), reporting an actual kill," one expert writes. It's believed Iraqi forces have at least four Chinese-made drones. And while Chinese drones may not be as good as their US-made counterparts, they come a lot cheaper.

While there is no direct evidence the Caihong-4—or the similar Gongji-1—were built using stolen US designs, a former NSA director says it's likely China got the plans through a cyberattack, the Asia Times reports. “There are two types of companies: those that have been hacked and know it and those that have been hacked and don’t know it,” Gen. Keith Alexander says. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden showed the US had been hit by more than 30,000 Chinese cyberattacks—with at least 500 of those being "significant intrusions" into the Department of Defense. If the US doesn't start protecting its information better, it may soon lose its advantage in military technology, according to the Asia Times. The New York Times reports China is now behind only the US and Russia in arms exports.