- Nov 4, 2011
High hopes of China’s H-20 stealth bomber launch as PLA top brass vow weapon system upgrades
- The H-20 is seen as China’s answer to the B-21 Raider, the US military’s most advanced strategic bomber
- New-generation warplane, tipped to double the PLA’s strike range, is expected to be launched soon, military insider tells the Post
Published: 10:30pm, 11 Nov, 2022
An artist’s impression of the likely features of an H-20 stealth bomber. Photo: Weibo
The People’s Liberation Army will continue to upgrade its weapon systems to meet President Xi Jinping’s call to build a “strong system of strategic deterrence”, air force top brass pledged at China’s biggest air show.
This comes as all eyes are on the PLA’s plans to launch its H-20 new generation stealth bomber, seen as China’s answer to the B-21 Raider – the US military’s most advanced strategic bomber expected to roll out next month.
In response to media queries on a possible timeline for the H-20, PLA Air Force deputy commander Lieutenant General Jia Zhigang said: “The air force should beef up its combat capabilities in both defensive and offensive air space operations … in response to the goal of establishing a strong system of strategic deterrence as presented in the 20th party congress report [delivered by Xi].”
Addressing the same press conference, Lieutenant Colonel Zou Zhaosia, the air force’s equipment department chief, said weapons upgrade and replacements would continue as they had done in the past decade, as the Chinese military works towards its goal of becoming a world-class fighting force.
His words echoed those of Xi’s work report to the Communist Party congress last month, calling on the PLA to move quicker with troop training and new strategies to become a world-class military.
Both Jia and Zou were speaking on the sidelines of the 14th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, a biannual air show in the southern city of Zhuhai that usually showcases the latest in Chinese warplanes and aviation technology.
According to former PLA instructor Song Zhongping, Jia and Zou’s remarks were a “strong implication” that China planned to introduce its H-20 bomber in the near future, a necessary step for the country to “build a strong system of strategic deterrence”, as Xi urged in his report on October 16.
“As the air force’s deputy commander, Jia has already given a clear message for the launch of the H-20, which is an indispensable part of letting the air force build up its powerful strategic deterrence,” Song said.
“The launch of the H-20 has become part of the air force’s technical requirements to further upgrade the PLA’s air, ground and sea-based ‘nuclear triad’,” he pointed out.
China completed its initial “nuclear triad” when the air force released footage of its Xian H-6N strategic bomber carrying a ballistic missile in October 2020.
The H-6N was developed on the platform of the country’s H-6K bomber, which was seen to carry two YJ-21s, known as “carrier killer” anti-ship hypersonic missiles, which made their first public appearance at the air show.
The US B-21 Raider, expected to launch on December 2, will replace older generation bombers like the Rockwell B-1 Lancer and Northrop B-2 Spirit.
The H-20 bomber, seen as China’s counter to the B-21 Raider, is expected to be launched soon, a military insider told the South China Morning Post.
The US defence department estimates a cruising distance of more than 8,500km (5,300 miles) for the H-20, the last in China’s “20 series” new-generation warplanes, which will double the country’s strike range.
“The aircraft is ready to be introduced, it’s just a matter of choosing the right timing,” said the insider, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
The H-20 has been a hot topic at the six-day Zhuhai air show, which closes on Sunday. Even Yang Wei, the chief designer of the J-20, China’s most advanced stealth fighter jet, was questioned on it by reporters.
Yang said his working team was aware of “what military enthusiasts are expecting”, and reiterated that the air force must become a “strategic air force capable of defending the homeland and fighting outside it”.
Yang’s message was consistent with Jia and Zou’s remarks, Song said.
The upcoming B-21 launch would mark the first public unveiling of a new US Air Force bomber since the B-2 Spirit debuted in 1988. It is said to be more advanced in terms of “low observable” – or stealth – technology, being at least two generations ahead of its older stablemate.
Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Tong said the B-21 would be more advanced than the H-20, but the gap between the two countries is narrowing.
“In order to prevent the PLA copying it, the Americans may not reveal the whole actual aircraft, but just computer graphics [of it],” Wong said.
As one of the sponsors of the Zhuhai air show, the PLA Air Force sent more than 50 types of weapons put into service since 2000 to be showcased at the event.
The J-20 was displayed on the ground for the first time, along with other “20 series” aircraft such as the Y-20 heavy lifter and Z-20 helicopter.
High hopes of PLA H-20 stealth bomber launch as top brass vow upgrades
The new-generation warplane, tipped to double the PLA’s strike range, is expected to be launched soon, military insider tells the Post.