China is likely to Put Into Service A New Generation of Supersonic Bomber Jets

Xian Y-20 airlifted.

The Chinese military was close to completing a significant flight test of a new combat aircraft with “strategic and historical significance.”However, China Teases New Bomber, But Timing Remains Unclear.

Ge Heping, the political commissar of the Chinese Flight Test Establishment, was quoted in the Global Times, a daily newspaper published by the Chinese Communist Party. To achieve the milestone test, he encouraged his staff to work harder. It has not yet been confirmed what the new aircraft is.

The Chinese military has made many advances in combat aircraft over the past two decades. During high-speed taxi tests, the first Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter broke cover nearly a decade ago. Xian’s Y-20 Airlifter was first seen a decade ago and flew Harbin’s Z-20 utility helicopter nine years ago.

  • The timing of the H-20 program remains a mystery.
  • The Tiangong space station model will be shown at the Zhuhai event

Xian H-20 Stealth Fighter Jet

The 14th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, known as Airshow China 2022, is preparing to debut in Zhuhai on November 8. The status of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s (PLAAF) “20-series” combat aircraft, the Xian H-20 stealth bomber, remains uncertain.

For years, speculation has swirled regarding the date of the long-range strategic bomber’s public appearance. A gathering of Chinese military authorities in 2015 determined that the PLAAF needed such an aircraft. The then-PLAAF commander, Gen. Ma Xiaotian, officially announced in 2016 that China was constructing a new bomber. The maker, Avic, hinted at the program’s impending arrival towards the end of a promotional film released in May 2018. The United States military has admitted the program’s existence, stating in a 2020 report to Congress that the “advanced bomber” may not reach service for a decade.

The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider is set to be unveiled in December, a month after Airshow China, providing the PLAAF and Avic a public stage to take the focus from the US Air Force’s latest stealth bomber.

However, there is little sign that the Chinese intend to capitalize on the chance. Despite Ge’s statements implying a July maiden flight, no confirmation from any program, including the H-20, has emerged in the intervening period.

The press briefing held before the Airshow China in Zhuhai on September 27 sparked yet another round of conjecture. A Chinese journalist asked PLAAF spokeswoman Senior Col. Shen Jinke whether a new member of the “20-series” aircraft family may be on exhibit. According to the Global Times, Shen responded that the PLAAF will demonstrate recent successes in “long-term strategic delivery,” as well as equipment that the audience “had never seen before.”

Xian Y-20U Importance

A modern bomber is a long-range aircraft capable of “strategic delivery,” although other possibilities exist. Shen’s remarks might be construed as a reference to the Xian Y-20U, a refueling variant of the indigenous airlifted that could assist the H-20 bomber on long-distance missions. The Y-20U was “unveiled” in July by Chinese official media, which showed the tanker refueling fighters during pre-deployment training. The aircraft made its public premiere at the Changchun Airshow in northeast China in late August.

An air show is likewise an unexpected location for a public reveal. Some aircraft, like the Y-20, were visible at Zhuhai within two years of the program’s inception. However, most Chinese military aircraft are photographed long before they appear at an air show.

The J-20, for example, first debuted at Zhuhai in 2016, roughly five years after the twin-engine fighter began flight testing. The PL-15 missile was formally displayed in Zhuhai in 2018, five years after the first images of the long-range air-to-air weapon were released. China debuted the Shenyang J-16D for the first time last year. It Postponed the 2021 Zhuhai event by a year owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the electronic warfare aircraft would have made its debut five years after its first flight if the display had gone through as planned.

Instead, the event will shed light on developments in China’s aviation and space industries. The Chinese government has announced that a full-scale replica of the nearly 100-ton Tiangong Space Station will be displayed for the first time.

The Most Advanced Fighter, Future Air King

H-20 Strategic Bomber

According to official US sources, a stealthy, flying-wing, subsonic bomber will be operational by the end of this decade. According to Avic, the project formally began in 2008, but idea development likely started in the 1990s. Gen. Ma Xiaotian, then-commander of the PLAAF, publicly confirmed the program’s existence in November 2016, stating that a long-range bomber was under development. Avic has teased the design of the aircraft in brochures and commercials, with a curtain shrouding an aircraft resembling a Northrop Grumman B-2. The tangible form of the airplane has not been revealed.

JH-XX Tactical Bomber

It has long been reported as a possible stealthy, supersonic medium bomber to supplement the Xian H-20. Images of unnamed ideas, perhaps tied to the JH-XX, have circulated since 2011. However, they have never been formally authenticated—a “fighter-bomber” development project in the US Defense Intelligence Agency’s 2019 China Military Power assessment. The paper characterized the bomber as possessing an active, electronically scanned array of radar, long-range air-to-air missiles, and precision-guided bombs but provided no sources or citations.

J-? Next-Generation Fighter

Wang Haifeng, head designer of Chengdu Aircraft Research and Design Institute, stated in a January 2019 interview with the Xian-based publication Ordnance Industry Science Technology that a sixth-generation fighter will enter service by 2035. According to Wang, such an aircraft might feature enhanced stealth, adaptive engines, laser weaponry, and hypersonic missiles. Although some observers assume China’s next fighter would be a replacement for the J-10, Yang Wei, principal designer of the Chengdu J-20, has presented a different perspective. Yang argued in an essay published in July 2020 by Acta Aeronautica et Astronautica Sinica, a monthly Chinese publication, that a future fighter jet would need more stealth, endurance, range, and weapons load than present aircraft.

According to Yang, the next-generation fighter would collect so much data that artificial intelligence systems will be required to make sense of it for the pilot.

Y-19/Y-30 Tactical Airlift

Several designs for a long-term replacement for the Shaanxi Y-8/Y-9 transport fleet, based on the late-1950s Antonov An-12, have emerged. According to some sources, the Y-19 may be a twin-turboprop replacement based on the projected WJ-10 engine. Alternatively, during the 2014 Zhuhai Airshow, Avic displayed a concept of a four-engine, 130,000-pound airlifted named the Y-30.

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