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Global Repartition: China Building Two New Stealth Bombers
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Global Repartition: China Building Two New Stealth Bombers

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A developed ocean fleet for operations anywhere in the world, hypersonic weapons and strategic missile forces capable of competing with recognized leaders of the "nuclear club" — this is how XI Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, sees the Armed Forces of his country in the near future. At the 19th Congress of the CPC, he promised by 2035 to re-equip the People's Liberation Army (PLA) with the latest military equipment, and by 2050 to make it the most powerful military force in the world.

The first steps of the Chinese army's actions were published in a report titled "China's Military Power." According to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), China is already building not one but two new stealth bombers.

The pace of China's military construction is impressive. Last year alone, its defense budget increased by 12% and amounted to more than 1,595,000,000 yuan, or about $200 billion. According to other unofficial forecasts, taking into account the "secret" budget items, China’s total military spending has already exceeded $250 billion. According to this indicator, the country is in second place in the world after the United States. More than 2 million people serve in the PLA today. And quantity quickly becomes quality.

At the beginning of last year, the Central Council for integrated military and civil development was established in China. The structure is engaged in research and development (R&d) for the development of new defense technologies, the development and implementation of new tactical and strategic concepts in the army, the analysis of foreign military experience and possible industrial espionage. The Council is headed personally by Xi Jinping, who in public speeches regularly emphasizes the need to introduce innovations in all types of PLA forces.

The United States is already implementing a similar military-industrial doctrine called the "Third Compensation Strategy" which is to concentrate resources on breakthrough areas: nano- and biotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics, hypersonic weapons, Cybersecurity and others. The ultimate goal of the program is to create an arsenal of weapons with qualitatively new capabilities, in fact, for the "army of the future.”

In this regard, as experts emphasize, Beijing is naturally not interested in Washington having such a serious superiority in the foreseeable future.

"The PLAAF [People's Liberation Army Air Force] is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers to strike regional and global targets," states the report. "Stealth technology continues to play a key role in the development of these new bombers, which probably will reach initial operational capability no sooner than 2025. These new bombers will have additional capabilities, with full-spectrum upgrades compared with current operational bomber fleets, and will employ many fifth-generation fighter technologies in their design."

While the PLA  Air Force doesn't hesitate to discuss strategic H-20 bombers, which Xian Aircraft Industrial Corporation is developing for the PLA Air Force, there is much less public mention of another bomber-the invisible man, which bears the designation JH-XX.

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The first is the Xian H-20, a subsonic stealth bomber design that looks similar to the Rockwell B-1 Lancer.

The second, described by Western intelligence agencies as JH-XX, is a stealth fighter-bomber, which would likely perform missions similar in scope to those of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II and Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

An October report showed that the Hong-20, or H-20, was ready for trial flights. The H-20 is widely believed to be a copy of the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.

The Military Power series is an unclassified overview designed to educate the public to better understand key challenges and threats to US national security.

"This product and other reports in this series are intended to inform our public, our leaders, the national security community, and partner nations about the challenges we face in the 21st century," Lt. Gen. Ashley said.

If the new report is accurate and China completes the JH-XX development, the Chinese Air Force may have the world's first air weapon in the form of a fighter-bomber, evading radar, whose main task is a ground attack over long distances.

Other types of stealth fighters, including the American F-22 and F-35, SU-57 Russian Air Force and J-20 and J-31 PLAAF, are mainly air-to-air fighters or combine air combat capabilities with the ability to hit ground targets.

Beijing's goal of eventually compelling Taiwanese reunification with China and deterring any attempt by Taiwan to declare independence led to the creation of new bombers.

"Beijing’s anticipation that foreign forces would intervene in a Taiwan scenario led the (People’s Liberation Army) to develop a range of systems to deter and deny foreign regional force projection," said the DIA.

The report estimates that Chinese spending on its armed forces "probably exceeded $200 billion" in 2018, "a threefold increase since 2002."

In a written introduction accompanying the report, the Defense Intelligence Agency's director, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, wrote that China has used a variety of means to acquire advanced technology to bolster its military capabilities despite some countries attempting to limit its access to that technology over international concerns about Beijing's human rights policies.

"China shifted funds and efforts to acquiring technology by any means available. Domestic laws forced foreign partners of Chinese-based joint ventures to release their technology in exchange for entry into China's lucrative market, and China has used other means to secure needed technology and expertise," Ashley said.

While the report acknowledges that China spends significantly less on defense than the some $700 billion invested by the US in 2018, it says Beijing enjoys an advantage due to the fact that "China has not had to invest in costly R&D of new technologies to the same degree as the United States."

According to some experts, the Pentagon Air Base on Guam, a key test site for US military aircraft operating over the Western Pacific, is the main potential target of China's new bombers. Opinions are confirmed by the words of the report:

"The PLAAF is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers to strike regional and global targets," the DIA continued in its report. "Stealth technology contin­ues to play a key role in the development of these new bombers, which probably will reach initial operational capability no sooner than 2025.

"These new bombers will have additional capabilities, with full-spectrum upgrades com­pared with current operational bomber fleets, and will employ many fifth-generation fighter technologies in their design."

In service, JH-XX can complement or replace existing JH-7 fighter-bombers, while there is a larger H-20, which can be similar in size and capabilities to the US Air Force B-2 stealth bomber.

The Chinese H-6K bomber is a highly modernized version of the Soviet Tu-16 bomber, which first flew in 1952.

"The H-6K variant, which China is fielding in greater numbers, integrates standoff weapons and features more efficient turbofan engines in redesigned wing roots," according to the DIA.

This is a carrier plane for the new CJ-20 cruise missile, which is similar to the American Tomahawk missile.

"This extended-range aircraft can carry six LACMs, providing the PLA a long-range, standoff, precision-strike capability that can reach Guam."

It is reported that the H-6 can carry heavy cargo up to a thousand miles and that the JH-7 can cover 560 miles. It's not clear how far H-20 and JH-XX can fly.

But as the Chinese Air Force is re-equipped with new medium-and long-range bombers, it's also expanding its geographic reach, sending more aircraft beyond the "first island chain" that runs from the Russian Kuril Islands South to Japan and then on to Philippines.

"In 2015 the PLA Air Force carried out four exercise training missions past the first island chain through the Bashi Channel, the northernmost passage of the Luzon Strait and through the Miyako Strait closer to Japan," the DIA explained.

"The Miyako Strait flights were 1,500 kilometers from Guam, within range of the PLAAF’s CJ-20 air-launched land-attack cruise missile. Also in 2015, the PLAAF began flying the H-6K medium-range bomber, the PLAAF’s first aircraft capable of conducting strikes on Guam (with air-launched LACMs like the CJ-20), past the first island chain into the Western Pacific."

New bombers can also carry nuclear weapons.

"As of 2017, the [Chinese] air force had been reassigned a nuclear mission, probably with a developmen­tal strategic bomber," the DIA reported. "The bomber’s deployment would provide China with its first credible nuclear triad of delivery systems dispersed across land, sea, and air -- a posture considered since the Cold War to improve sur­vivability and strategic deterrence."

It's not clear whether JH-XX can also carry nuclear weapons. The fact that the JH-XX is a fighter-bomber rather than a multipurpose fighter implies that its design emphasizes range and payload rather than maneuverability.

If there is anything that could hinder the development of the JH-XX, it's the new aircraft's engine. Problems with a Chinese-built integrated engine reportedly slowed the development of the PLAAF's J-20.

"China's aviation industry has advanced to produce a developmental large transport aircraft, modern fourth- to fifth-generation fighters incorporating low-observable technologies, modern reconnaissance and attack UAVs and attack helicopters," the DIA explained in its report. "However, China's aircraft industry remains reliant on foreign-sourced components for dependable, proven, high-performance aircraft engines."

Author: USA Really