Chinese strategic bomber designed from the ground up

Possible appearance of the promising H-20. Figure

For many years, the Chinese industry, led by the Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation, has been working on the creation of a promising H-20 strategic bomber. Very little is known about this car, and the available data is not very detailed. However, this year the “premiere” show may take place, thanks to which the appearance and some characteristics of the aircraft will become known.

New dates

Until recently, Chinese and foreign sources claimed that the Xian H-20 bomber could enter the army in the mid-twenties. This made it possible to present the approximate timing of the withdrawal of equipment for testing and demonstration to the public. Now more accurate data have appeared – even if not official.

On May 4, the Chinese edition of the South China Morning Post, citing unnamed sources in the PLA, spoke of a possible public display of the finished bomber and other materials on the project. Airshow China 2020, scheduled for November 10-15, 2020, may be the venue for the first demonstration. The latest Chinese developments are regularly displayed at the exhibition in Zhuhai, and the H-20 bomber is unlikely to be an exception.

How exactly the new aircraft will be shown is unclear. The prototype, which is expected to appear so far, can be shown in a parking lot or even shown in flight. In addition, certain information materials will have to be present at the exhibition.

Politics and virus

The SCMP source noted that the future display of the H-20 aircraft directly depends on the state of affairs in the country. If the coronavirus epidemic can be brought under control or stopped altogether, Zhuhai will be able to host the air show, and the aviation industry will once again show its developments.

The success of Airshow China 2020 will confirm China’s ability to meet multiple challenges. First of all, the opening of the salon will show success in the fight against the virus. In addition, at the exhibition itself, it will be possible to demonstrate that the epidemic has not hit the potential of the aircraft industry and that it is still capable of producing modern equipment and promising samples.

One of the earliest versions of the alleged appearance of the H-20. Figure

Another SCMP source believes that even the demonstration of the H-20 can negatively affect the situation in the region. Due to its high performance characteristics, the new bomber will be able to hit targets in the territories of various states in the Asia-Pacific region, from Japan to Australia. The situation in the APR cannot be called calm anyway, and the ongoing pandemic has only worsened the situation. Even showing an experienced bomber will itself be a new destabilizing factor.

Classified characteristics

The Xi’an Corporation and the PLA have so far announced the existence of the H-20 project and have disclosed only the most general information. The bulk of information about a promising bomber comes from unofficial sources – the Chinese and foreign press, as well as foreign intelligence. All this allows a relatively detailed picture to be drawn, but its plausibility is still in question.

The H-20 is the first strategic bomber developed in China from scratch, without using a foreign model as a base. It is believed that the goal of the project is to create a long-range, inconspicuous supersonic (according to other sources, subsonic) bomber with the ability to carry a wide range of nuclear and conventional weapons.

In the past, it was reported that the flight range without refueling should reach 8.5 thousand km. The combat load is estimated within a fairly wide range – from 10 to 45 tons. The exact shape of the vehicle is unknown, which also leads to the emergence of the most daring versions. Thus, the most popular ratings describe a flying wing aircraft with a takeoff weight of more than 200 tons.

The question of the power plant remains open. In the foreign press at different times there were versions about the use of their own Chinese and imported engines. According to the first, an upgraded version of the WS-10 turbojet was created for the H-20. According to another version, China ordered one of the versions of the existing NK-32 from Russia.

According to foreign data, the prototype H-20 aircraft has already existed since 2013-15. is undergoing flight tests. It is possible to build several prototypes. Thus, at a future exhibition in Zhuhai, it is expected to show one of the machines that have already passed tests. In addition, in the near future, work on the construction of serial equipment may begin.

Expected Features

In terms of its main goals and objectives, the Xian H-20 will be a typical strategic bomber. It will have to deliver weapons to targets or to launch lines located at great distances from home airfields. Due to a significant increase in flight characteristics, the new aircraft will be able to show serious advantages over its predecessors in the form of H-6 bombers of all modifications.

The Xian H-6K bomber is the backbone of the PLA’s long-range aviation. Photo Wikimedia Commons

The main advantage lies in the flight range and combat radius. Taking off from mainland airfields, the H-20 will be able to operate outside the so-called. The second chain of islands, including Japan, about. Guam, Papua New Guinea, etc. Based on forward airfields on the islands, refueling and extended-range weapons will dramatically increase the aircraft’s area of ​​responsibility.

Unlike its predecessors, the H-20 is executed unobtrusively, which gives it obvious advantages and becomes the answer to objective challenges. China is opposing several developed countries in the APR that are capable of organizing effective air defense and air forces. To break through such a defense and deliver strikes at strategic depths, along with other things, stealth is also necessary.

A bomber capable of carrying special ammunition will be part of the Chinese nuclear triad. The strategic nuclear forces of the PLA nominally include all the necessary means, but their real potential is still limited. For example, the air component of the strategic nuclear forces is still based on the aircraft of the H-6 family. These bombers, despite numerous upgrades, are outdated long ago and need to be replaced.

The appearance of the serial combatant H-20 will make the aviation part of the nuclear forces modern and fully combat-ready, as well as ready to carry out combat missions at strategic ranges – outside the close island chains.

From show to service

According to foreign media reports, tests of the Xian H-20 bomber could have begun several years ago, but this car has not yet been shown to the public. Moreover, until now it has been possible to keep secret both the appearance and the main characteristics. However, this year the situation may change – if the information about the first show of the aircraft at the future Airshow China 2020 is true.

According to various sources, serial production of the H-20 should begin by the middle of the decade, and approximately in 2025 the aircraft will begin service. In what quantities such equipment will be produced, and how quickly it will be possible to create a full-fledged combat-ready grouping is unknown. However, the consequences of China’s actions can be understood now.

At the expense of the H-20, the PLA will update their strategic aviation, and the strategic nuclear forces will have a full-fledged modern and combat-ready air component capable of threatening a potential enemy. Naturally, the appearance of such an aircraft will not go unnoticed by other countries and will become an incentive for the development of air defense and air forces. At the same time, the bomber will contribute to the growth of tension in the APR, since none of the opposing countries will want to give up their positions.

However, all this is a matter of the distant future. While the main topic can be considered the expected first display of a promising aircraft. If South China Morning Post sources are correct, the public will see the Xian H-20 next fall. And the first show of the bomber will be a step towards all further events.

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