The Chinese H-20, seen as a copied version of the American B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, may have a “truly intercontinental” capability to strike as far as the American island, Hawaii, without mid-air refueling.
China’s Xian H-20 is still in the development phase and will be the first dedicated strategic bomber by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). With heavy American militarization in the Indo-Pacific region, the Chinese bomber is seen as an answer to strike stealth F-35 jets that Washington has been vying to equip the neighboring countries with.
The H-20 is expected to give a tough competition to the American B-21 Raider. Northrop Grumman is currently building the first test aircraft in Palmdale, California and the Air Force looks forward to procuring at least 100 B-21 Raider bombers.
The B-21, which will be in service in the next two years, will serve as an advanced, very long-range, large, heavy-payload stealth intercontinental strategic bomber and bring in new dimensions of stealth, software, offensive possibilities, and nuclear deterrence to the US Air Force.
There isn’t much information in the public domain as the bomber is still under development. However, based on the images and the little information available, analysts believe that the bomber is somewhat “indistinguishable from a US B-2.”
According to Kris Osborn of The National Interest, given China’s “well known and well-documented habit of stealing or copying US weapons designs,” H-20 has striking similarities with B-2, including the rounded upper fuselage, blended wing body, curved upper air inlets, and essentially no vertical structures. “There appears to be a fair amount of evidence, simply available to the naked eye, to demonstrate China’s overt “copycat” maneuver,” he noted.
China’s aviation giant, Aviation Industry Corporation, revealed a model jet, believed to be the US B2 stealth bomber-like model “H20”, in a 9-second Easter egg in a video commemorating 60 years of its subsidy Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation. https://t.co/yD5k0Ecc0O pic.twitter.com/kLWJkxSaXh
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) May 9, 2018
According to a report by the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI), a British defense and security think tank, the H-20 bomber will give China a truly intercontinental power-projection capability.
Quoting experts, the Chinese state media said that the H-20 bomber would have a range of at least 12,000 kilometers and 20 tons of store carrying capacity, meaning the PLA would be capable of striking Hawaii. Reportedly, the stealth bomber’s long-range wouldn’t even require refueling during its journey to strike Hawaii, reported the UK’s Sun.
Contrary to the Chinese media reports, the annual report to Congress by the US Departement of Defense, said the H-20 stealth bomber, developed by China-state owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), would have a likely range of 8,500 kilometers and a payload of at least 10 metric tons.
The RUSI report added that the H-20 would feature nuclear and conventional standoff missiles, a major break from previous PLAAF doctrine and equipment development practice. “The PLAAF (and PLAN) are currently configured as regional forces for a conflict within the first island chain with additional specific capabilities aimed at neutralizing or suppressing the US base at Guam.”
Guam is a major US military base in the Western Pacific and holds strategic importance for military response in case of a conflict in the Indo-Pacific region.
Song Zhongping, a former instructor with the PLA, told SCMP, that the H-20 bomber is designed to reach US territory as part of China’s nuclear triad, which also includes ground and sea-launched missiles. “But the flying design means it is unlikely to have aerial combat capability, therefore, stealth is more important,” he said.