BEIJING --- "We are developing the new-generation long range strike bomber (LRSB). You will see it in the future," said the PLA Air Force commander Ma Xiaotian at a PLA Air Force open day event when answering reporters’ questions on September 1, 2016. Since then China's new-generation LRSB has drawn extensive attention in the world.
Early on July 13, 2015, a Japanese scholar wrote an article titled "China to develop new type of long-range strategic bomber", which referred to the H-20, a name that's commonly used now. Someone compared it with America's B-2 strategic bomber and called it the "red B-2".
From J-20 to Y-20 and to Z-20, the continuous appearance of China's "20 series" has shown the world the PLA Air Force's historical breakthroughs in weapon and equipment development and marked that the Chinese aviation industry has entered the "Age 20".
"20" is a code used for China's new-generation aviation equipment and also implies these equipment's combat capability will be formed around 2020.
Now that China is to develop a new-generation LRSB. Given the connotations of "20", it makes sense to name the new long-range bomber "H-20", but the official name is yet to be announced by Chinese military authorities.
China's new strategic bomber to carry nuclear and regular weapons
China has overcome many technical difficulties in strategic bomber so far, including engine, air inlet, material and stealth technology. It is progressing fast on the development of precise guided munition, and has amassed experience in manufacturing the Y-20 military aircraft.
Therefore, the new-generation long-range bomber is likely to have the following characteristics.
First, good stealth performance. The new bomber will probably adopt the flying wing layout like American and Russian bombers to meet the requirement for stealth performance.
Second, ultra long range. The new bomber has an intercontinental flying range of more than 10,000km and combat radius of over 5,000km. With air refueling, it is able to fly and carry out missions around the globe.
Third, large bomb load. Aimed to lower the R&D cost and enhance strike capability, the new bomber will have a slightly smaller bomb load than B-2A (23 tons) but larger than H-6K.
Fourth, nuclear-regular integration. The new-generation long-range bomber will have both nuclear and regular strike capability to hit the enemy's key links and systemic weaknesses.
Fifth, strong electronic combat capability. The new-generation long-range bomber is almost as good as a special electronic combat aircraft in electronic combat capability. It is able to disturb and destroy incoming missiles and other air and ground targets through a range of equipment including radar, electronic confrontation platform, high power microwave, laser and infrared equipment.
The bomber is also capable of large-capacity date fusion and transmission. It can serve as a C4ISR node and interact with large sensor platforms like UAV, early warning aircraft and strategic reconnaissance aircraft to share information and target data.
New bomber marks PLA Air Force's transformation from a big force to a strong force.
The long-range strategic bomber is an indispensable part in a major country's strategic strike system.
At the moment, the US and Russia both have their own long-range bombers, the former having B-52H, B-1B and B-2A and the latter having Tu-160 and Tu-95MS, and they have both plans for developing next-generation strategic bombers.
The large long-range bomber has always been a weak point for the PLA Air Force, which is at the critical juncture of moving from quantitative accumulation to qualitative change and from being a big force to a strong force.
The new-generation LRSB will considerably improve China's strategic attack capability and make the PLA Air Force a strategic air force in the true sense.
It is also of great realistic significance for countering nuclear blackmail from superpowers, solving surrounding maritime disputes that impede China's rise, and preserving world peace.