Earlier this month, the magazine cover for Chinese aerospace magazine Aviation Knowledge highlighted an artist’s rendition of the next-generation strategic stealth bomber Xian H-20, which Beijing is currently developing.
According to The Diplomat, a small number of English-language newspapers in the region have commented on this secret stealth bomber, “speculating whether its presence on the cover of Aviation Knowledge may indicate some subtle official Chinese military backing.” Development of the stealth bomber was officially confirmed in 2016, although limited details have been provided since.
Some commentary surrounding the H-20 surfaced in 2016 when official PLA-affiliated sources announced the development of the next generation long-range stealth bomber. PLA Air Force General Ma Xiaotian, stated, “our long-range strike capability has much improved compared to the past, and an even bigger improvement is coming. We are developing a new generation of long-range bomber.”
In mid-2017, ChinaMilitary.cn, the only official English-language news website of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), published an intriguing article on details surrounding the H-20 and what its potential missions and parameters could be:
First, good stealth performance. The new bomber will probably adopt the flying wing layout like American and Russian bombers to meet the requirement for stealth performance.
Second, ultra long range. The new bomber has an intercontinental flying range of more than 10,000km and combat radius of over 5,000km. With air refueling, it is able to fly and carry out missions around the globe.
Third, large bomb load. Aimed to lower the R&D cost and enhance strike capability, the new bomber will have a slightly smaller bomb load than B-2A (23 tons) but larger than H-6K.
Fourth, nuclear-regular integration. The new-generation long-range bomber will have both nuclear and regular strike capability to hit the enemy’s key links and systemic weaknesses.
Fifth, strong electronic combat capability. The new-generation long-range bomber is almost as good as a special electronic combat aircraft in electronic combat capability. It is able to disturb and destroy incoming missiles and other air and ground targets through a range of equipment including radar, electronic confrontation platform, high power microwave, laser and infrared equipment.
Now, Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), one of China’s most significant aerospace and defense companies (ranked 159th in the Fortune Global 500 lists), has provided a sneak peek into one of the most secretive aerospace projects Beijing has ever created to date — the development of the next-generation stealth bomber. On Tuesday, the company released an unclassified promotional video featuring 60-years of AVIC aircraft. However, at the end of the video, a short scene depicts an outline of an aerodynamic shape of a ‘flying wing,’ popularized by the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit. The scene closely resembles the 2015 Northrup Grumman Super Bowl commercial with a B-21 Raider. Seems as the Chinese are not just ripping off airplane designs from American defense companies, but also propaganda videos.
“China’s aviation giant, Aviation Industry Corporation, revealed a model jet, believed to be the US B2 stealth bomber-like model “H-20”, in a 9-second Easter egg in a video commemorating 60 years of its subsidy Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation,” said the Global Times.
China’s aviation giant, Aviation Industry Corporation, revealed a model jet, believed to be the US B2 stealth bomber-like model “H20”, in a 9-second Easter egg in a video commemorating 60 years of its subsidy Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation. https://t.co/yD5k0Ecc0O pic.twitter.com/kLWJkxSaXh— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) May 9, 2018
In the past few years, State-run media outlets in China have echoed the need for the PLA to develop long-range strategic bombers to strike their adversaries [United States] at a greater distance. There are new reports from Sputnik that the next-generation stealth bomber could be ready for service by the mid-2020s, but the design of the aircraft remains somewhat of a mystery. Pentagon experts have warned that the new bomber could utilize “stealth” technology and be able to carry both conventional and strategic nuclear bombs.
Shi Jian, a senior editor at Aviation World Monthly magazine, said, the “latest AVIC move indicates that the State-owned defense giant believes the new bomber’s design and technologies have advanced enough that the company wants to let people know of the program’s progress.”
“I think the new bomber will be unveiled to the public in the near future,” he said. “It is now not uncommon for the PLA to make public its top weapons before their delivery thanks to the increased level of transparency and confidence brought about by our technological advancement.”
While China is expected to unveil one of its most secretive weapons — a next-generation long-range stealth bomber, the aviation community in China and State-run media outlets indicate that its official release date could be imminent. The news of an advanced Chinese bomber could certainly horrify the West, as both countries are expected to unleash these next-generation stealth bombers by mid-2020s. Is China catching up?