According to a Department of Defense intelligence official, U.S. officials are confident it will not measure up to U.S. designs, whatever the outcome of China’s new long-range nuclear stealth bomber, known as the Xi’an H-20. Defending.

“The issue with the H-20 is that when you look at the system design, it’s probably not nearly as good as the US LO [low observable] platforms, particularly the more advanced ones we have on the way.” The official said, speaking on condition of anonymity at a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon.

“They’ve run into a lot of engineering design issues in terms of how to make the system capability work similar to, say, a B-2 or a B-21,” the official said.

The H-20 is expected to be Beijing’s answer to US platforms such as the new B-21 Raider, although little is known about the Chinese program given intense state secrecy.

In March, a Chinese military official told the state-run Hong Kong Commercial Daily newspaper that the H-20 would be unveiled soon, although the timeline is unclear.

«They may decide to present it only because they want to show that they are a great military power. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that it really provides them with the type of capability they would need or in the quantity they would need,” the DoD intelligence official said.

Asked if the H-20 is a cause for concern, the official responded: “Not really.”

It’s not the first time a DoD official has verbally shrugged off a key part of China’s military aviation modernization plan. In September 2022, former Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach told reporters that the J-20 stealth fighter is “nothing to lose sleep over.” (The DoD intelligence officer has said that the J-20 “remains a very capable system” but that it does not “meet all of [China’s] original parameters.”)

Preparing for a “prolonged” combat with the US

Despite not being a briefing on China, the Defense Department intelligence official’s comments have focused almost exclusively on the military threat posed by Beijing, which the Pentagon has called the United States’ “pace challenge.” . China is serious about preparing all levels of society for a “protracted” conflict with the US, the official said, emphasizing that Beijing is purposely equipping the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to exploit the American military weaknesses.

A key aspect of China’s growing military modernization is the expansion of its nuclear arsenal, which already has 500 operational nuclear warheads and which, according to authorities, could exceed 1,000 by 2030. But there are doubts about some elements of the true country’s military prowess, given widespread corruption, which led to results such as missiles filled with water instead of fuel and missile silos whose launch caps would likely not work, Bloomberg reported.

Asked about the Bloomberg report, the official said that “some of them were probably filled with water or had lids that didn’t open, but not all” across China’s military force.

“I guess the biggest challenge for China is not so much the capability of the systems themselves, but rather the ability of the personnel to effectively employ those systems at speed and scale,” the official said.

In particular, China’s Rocket Force has seen several leaders publicly removed from their positions in recent months, a purge that included then-Defense Minister Li Shangfu, reportedly accused of “corruption.” Although rooting out corruption in the past may have been a cover to consolidate power, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent anti-corruption measures “appear to be really aimed at corruption cases,” according to the official.

However, officials continue to prepare for a scenario in which the bulk of Beijing’s military power will be very effective. Although they have publicly stressed that war with China is neither inevitable nor imminent, Xi and “the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] almost certainly” think war is inevitable, he said, adding that CCP leaders believe the United States would be the one who would start the conflict.

Explaining the thinking of senior Pentagon leaders, the Defense Department intelligence official said: “I don’t want to trust that the Chinese aren’t good [at combat] because we’re not going to know they’re not good until they’re shooting at us.”

Michael Marrow