China's Xian H-6K bombers, which have been patrolling the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, will participate in the International Army Games on July 28 in southern Russia and parts of the Caucasus for the first time, according to a spokesman from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force on Thursday. China will join Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Iran in the war games.
Yue Gang, a retired colonel with the PLA, told the South China Morning Post that China's goal is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the bomber. "It is really difficult to know how big the gap is between the Chinese aircraft and the ones used by overseas air forces without joining overseas exercises like this," Yue said, adding that China will get a chance to test it against the "advanced bombers of Russia."
The bomber is equipped with cruise missiles with a range of nearly 1,000-miles and has a reported combat range of more than 2,000 miles. It was developed from a plane originally produced in Russia: the Tu-16 Badger, which the Soviet Union licensed to China in 1958.
After US Air Force B-52 bombers soared around the South China Sea in late April, Beijing conducted take-off and landing drills with the H-6Ks in the area the following month, a move Washington condemned for having the potential to "raise tensions and destabilize the region."