H-20

H-20 could be China’s answer to America’s Brand new B-21.

On December 2, the United States Air Force hosted a demonstration of the advanced B-21 Raider bomber at the Northrop Grumman facility in Palmdale, California. It caused concern in Beijing.

Military experts and experts on China are wondering how China will respond with its next-generation stealth ground-attack plane, the Xian H-20. When will this bomber from China be done?

The first test flight of the B-21 might occur as early as 2023, and the aircraft could be fully operational by the middle of the decade. Parallel to this, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has been making noise about introducing the Xian H-20 to update its attack aircraft inventory.

H-20: The search begins with an F-117

For over two decades, China has wanted its stealth bomber after acquiring pieces of a Russian-made SAM that brought down an F-117 Nighthawk over the Balkans during the Kosovo war.

Chinese intelligence agencies acquired stealth plane components, and Chinese museums displayed F-117 components.

CHINA GETS EXCITED

The idea of having a stealth bomber of their own got the PLAAF thinking. Sufficient of the pieces they recovered might be replicable with some research and time.

In 2013, Chinese media reported for the first time that the PLAAF was close to developing a design, and an outside expert released a concept art rendering of the stealth bomber.

State media in China reported in 2014 that the new bomber had a long range and could carry many weapons.

MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE XIAN H-20

H-20

The PLAAF’s H-20 programme began with fanfare in 2018. Expectations called for it to have a flying wing configuration, much like the American B-2 stealth bomber.

A 2018 US-China Military Power Report stated that China was developing the H-20, a long-range strategic stealth bomber.

A senior United States Department of Defense official told 19FortyFive in November that it would be years before the PLAAF began using the  Xian H-20 in regular service and would not immediately alter the military balance in the Indo-Pacific.

WHAT is known so far?

Taking design cues from aircraft like the B-2 and B-21, the H-20 will most likely have a rounded fuselage with integrated wings and curved air intakes.

When it comes to deterring China’s nuclear triad, the PLAAF wants the H-20 to be nuclear-capable like the B-21.

There was an inbuilt rotary launcher that could fire either conventional missiles or hypersonic weaponry. Active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar will likely be included in the Xian H-20.

THE LONG-RANGE OF THE H-20 IS WORRYING

With a claimed range of 8,000 kilometers, the Xian H-20  could hit targets in Guam and Australia and even threaten Hawaii. The Philippines and Japan would also be in danger.

The mainland United States might be in the sights of an airborne resupply. In theory, its stealthy qualities would let it fly in restricted airspace.

The Xian H-20 may also fly with China’s stealth fighter, the J-20, which has been developed sufficiently for China to deploy it to all the conflict zones on the continent.

WE MUST NOT FORGET THAT CHINA AND RUSSIA HAVE OTHER BOMBERS

B-21 Raider
B-21 Raider Rollout on December 2.

China and Russia were so concerned about countering the B-21 unveiling that they held a joint patrol of their bombers on November 30, two days before the big day for the American stealth bomber. 

On a “joint long-distance flight from the Sea of Japan to the East China Sea across the Pacific,” two Chinese H-6s and two Russian Tu-95s crossed the ocean together, as reported by the Kyodo Times.

It is expected that US intelligence agencies, US Indo-Pacific Command generals, and admirals would closely monitor China’s progress on the Xian H-20.

China is eager to develop a stealth bomber similar to the B-2 and B-2 1. The Xian H-20 could give China an advantage in planning its nuclear strategy and honing its defensive measures, even though China also has a nuclear triad.

 The PLAAF will eventually obtain its stealth bomber despite efforts to keep key details hidden, as China is okay with playing copycat regarding aircraft development.