China teases US: unveils Xian H-20 stealth bomber, a B-2 Spirit copy

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The analyzes were made by Patrick Zwerger for Flug Revue. Their assessments, opinions and comments on the topic do not reflect the position of BulgarianMilitary.com

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BEIJING ($1=6.76 Chinese Yuans) — China is working on a new stealth strategic bomber. Not much is known about it, only that it will probably be a flying wing. But soon the Chinese could lift the veil: the indications of an upcoming maiden flight are increasing.

Photo credit: Flug Revue

Big things are happening in China. At least that’s what one might assume if one believes the words of Go Heping. The head of the flight test division of the Chinese state-owned aviation group Avic announced at a rally last week that “an important aircraft of decisive strategic and historical importance” should soon complete its first test flight. In this context, as reported by the Chinese newspaper Global News, Heping called on all employees involved in the test program to “be aware of the utmost importance of successfully completing this mission.”

Stealth bombers in the starting blocks?

Photo credit: Flug Revue

It was unclear which aircraft the Avic man was referring to when he made his announcement. The Global Times notes that neither the type nor the designation was mentioned. Given the pathetic words, however, speculation immediately ran rampant in China that there could actually only be one model of “decisive strategic and historical importance”: the Xian H-20 stealth bomber shrouded in mystery. So far, almost nothing is known about this – only that it is said to be a new strategic bomber, the development of which was officially confirmed for the first time in 2016. It was the Chinese Air Force itself that substantiated the assumption in video sequences in 2018 and 2021 that the H-20 is planned as a flying wing, presumably similar in design and size to the US bomber Northrop B-2 Spirit.

Notes “make sense”

An unnamed aviation expert from China told the Global Times that the public speculation that the announced aircraft was the H-20 made sense to him. However, it could also be an “overinterpretation” and a completely different project meant. However, the words chosen by Go Heping do indeed best apply to the H-20. After all, this aircraft would make China the second nation in the world to develop its own stealth bomber ready to fly. It is not only against this background that the H-20 is considered the most ambitious project that China’s aviation industry has dealt with to date. In addition, there has been speculation in the recent past that the stealth bomber will take off on its maiden flight by 2023 at the latest. So the time frame fits.

The cards are remixed

The new flying wing would also be a real turning point for the strategic orientation of the Chinese Air Force – and a massive strengthening of its own position in the Asia-Pacific region. Obsolete Xian H-6s currently form the backbone of the long-range bomber fleet. Licensed builds of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16, which were retired in Russia in the 1990s. Although the Chinese counterparts have been comprehensively modernized, their range of services remains limited with a maximum non-stop range of 6,000 kilometers and a manageable nine tons of weapon load.

Photo credit: Glug Revue

In contrast, according to estimates by international analysts, the Xian H-20 can fly between 8,500 and 12,000 kilometers, giving China’s strategic bomber fleet “truly intercontinental” attack capacity for the first time. China has said the new bomber will be part of a “nuclear triad” that also includes land-based missiles and nuclear-armed submarines.

Equipped with an AESA radar and both conventional and nuclear cruise missiles, the H-20 could at least bring the US overseas base Guam, possibly even Hawaii, within range. The WS-10 turbofans developed in China should be used as the drive, which, according to the plan, allow the stealth flying wing to reach a speed just below the sound limit.

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