07:01 GMT25 February 2021
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    China’s air force is working on two new stealth bombers to replace its aging fleet of Soviet-era Xian H-6 bombers, a new US intelligence report says. While Beijing confirmed the existence of one, the B-2 Spirit-like H-20, in October, the second is being called the JH-XX by observers and is rumored to be a medium bomber.

    "The PLAAF [People's Liberation Army Air Force] is developing new medium- and long-range stealth bombers to strike regional and global targets," an annex of a US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report issued last week states. "Stealth technology continues to play a key role in the development of these new bombers, which probably will reach initial operational capability no sooner than 2025."

    "These new bombers will have additional capabilities, with full-spectrum upgrades compared with current operational bomber fleets, and will employ many fifth-generation fighter technologies in their design," the review, titled "China Military Power," states.

    An August announcement by CCTV confirmed the "Hong-20" was China's "new long-distance strategic bomber," and the plane may be ready to make its first flight this year, Sputnik reported. The H-20 is widely believed to be analogous to the US Air Force's B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, in both design and range.

    ​However, the DIA report also described a second plane with no obvious analogue in the US fleet. This plane, described as a medium bomber, would be heavier than an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter but would lack the long range of the H-20.

    The Drive reports the plane, which is roughly dubbed the JH-XX by observers, will have a 1,000 to 2,000-mile combat radius, an internal ventral weapons bay but also side weapons bays, possibly for air-to-air weapons. It is believed to be about 100 feet long. By comparison, an F-22 Raptor is 62 feet long, and the H-20 is projected to have a range of 5,000 miles without refueling.

    Lots of fan art has emerged portraying both the H-20 and the JH-XX, including unofficial art that appeared on the cover of Chinese Aerospace Knowledge magazine last April, but nothing is confirmed yet. Observers seem to be basing their projections for the JH-XX off a similar but rejected proposal floated by Lockheed Martin to the US Air Force for a medium bomber derived from the F-22 Raptor that was provisionally dubbed the FB-22.

    Future Chinese Xian H-20 Strategic Bomber, now believed to depict the J/H-XX multirole aircraft

    The introduction of new bombers would be a huge leap forward for the PLAAF, whose mainstay bomber is the Xian H-6, designed off the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 Badger, a bomber introduced in 1954. The H-20 is believed to also be designed by Xian Aircraft Industrial Corporation, and the JH-XX is rumored to be Shenyang Aircraft Corporation's failed competing bid for the H-20 contract, the Drive reported. If so, it seems it would more fit the demands of a medium bomber than a long-range bomber.

    China debuted its Chengdu J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighter, roughly the equivalent of the US' F-22, in 2011 and added it to combat service in February of last year. This November, the plane was spotted at the Zhuhai Air Show pulling off some stunts.


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    medium bomber, JH-XX, J-20, H-20, Stealth bomber, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), PLAAF, Xian Aircraft Industrial Corporation, Shenyang Aircraft Corporation
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