The idea that the Russians copy Western aircraft today is ludicrous. The definition of "copy" is to reproduce something in an identical fashion, so that there is no difference from the original. Therefore, the only real "copy" of any Western aircraft by a Russian design bureau was of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress in the late '40s. Three B-29s made emergency landings due to fuel shortage at a Sakhalin base, and Stalin issued a directive to Andrei Tupolev that an exact copy of the aircraft be made, bolt for bolt. That is exactly what Tupolev did, right down to the "Boeing" stamps on the rudder pedals, to hear it told. That aircraft became the Tupolev TU
-4 Bull. This project achieved the objective Stalin set out - to have a Russian-built intercontinental bomber capable of delivering a nuclear device.
Certainly, there are design similarities between some Russian and Western commercial aircraft. Some systems, like those on the TU
-144, WERE taken from design schematics obtained through spying. However it is plain that this was unsuccessful - the TU
-144 was an engineering failure.
If true copying were going on, there would be no visual differences, correct? The IL
-62 resembles the British VC
-10, but only superficially, and has far outlasted the latter in service. If the IL
-86 was indeed a copy of the Airbus A300, then it would have had twin turbofans, not the four which power it. The IL
-96-300 preceded the Airbus A340 by several years, making its first flight in 1988 and, unlike many other aircraft at that time, it was also entirely fly-by-wire. The TU
-134 is similar to the DC-9 only in its twin tail-mounted engine layout and t-tail. Otherwise, it is more similar to the TU
-104, which was derived from the TU
-16 Badger bomber itself. Same with the TU
-114, having its base in the TU
-95 Bear bomber/reconnaissance aircraft. The TU
-154 and TU
-204 are entirely civilian designs, having no connection with military aircraft, other than some of their more rugged components, such as landing gear. The TU
-154 bearing resemblance to the Boeing 727 and the TU
-204 to the 757 is more of a coincidence than a result of copying – the aircraft were all designed to fulfill similar roles, so the similarity of design is understandable. However, Russian-built aircraft have more back-up systems and are capable of operating from very primitive, poorly-equipped airfields. As a direct result of this, they have been self-contained, not needing ground equipment, for much longer than Western aircraft.
It can also be said that, unlike many Western airliners, Russian planes were designed with a dual purpose - ease of conversion for carrying troops, as well as reconnaissance, during wartime.
The one area Russian manufacturers COULD benefit from successful copying of Western designs is in engines. The IL
-86 is not only powered by four engines instead of two, those Kuznetsov NK
-86 engines are far inferior to any Western counterpart, in terms of thrust ratio and fuel consumption. Though powered by a new generation of higher-bypass turbofans, the IL
-96 series and TU
-204 have suffered numerous setbacks due to the same issues – lower-than-promised power and higher-than-expected fuel consumption of the Aviadvigatel’ PS
-90A turbofan. The deal between Rolls-Royce and Tupolev for alternate TU
-204 powerplants is an excellent one, bringing the performance of that aircraft more in line with its Western counterpart, the Boeing 757-200. Perhaps a joint venture between a Western company and a Russian one would resolve the shortcomings of most Russian-designed engines.
It's presumptuous to say Russian manufacturers copy things Western, and what's more, it's far from the truth. If it were, some areas of technology would have been vastly improved by now.