China may unveil its stealth bomber to counter US' B-21 Raider launch

The launch seems plausible as the U.S. prepares to unveil its B-21 Raider
Ameya Paleja
A representative stock image of a stealth bomber in flight.
A representative stock image of a stealth bomber in flight.

icholakov/iStock 

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) could be very close to launching the H-20 stealth bomber, a warplane that could effectively double its strike range, as the top brass is committed to upgrading its weapon systems, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.

Speaking at public events in China, multiple commanders of the PLA Air Force reiterated that China was keen on beefing up its combat capabilities in both offensive and defense operations to establish a strong strategic deterrence, something President Xi Jinping has also said recently.

In its bid to strengthen its aerial capabilities, China has been steadily working on its 20 series aircraft, which include the Y-20 heavy lifter, Z-20 helicopter, and J-20 stealth fighter. The H-20 is expected to fulfill the role of the stealth bomber, which has been missing in China's strike options.

What do we know about the H-20 stealth bomber?

China's attempts to make stealth bombers can be dated back to the early 2000s after officials gained access to an American F-117 Nighthawk shot down in Yugoslavia. The B-2 Spirit, with a flowing design and stealth functions, had entered service, and the U.S. now had the capability to fly and strike targets without being detected.

It was only in 2013 that concrete reports of a stealth bomber began to emerge, per Sandboxx. The following year, China lifted the veil over its development efforts stating that it was working on an aircraft that could carry ten tons of ordnance and fly for 4.790 miles (8,000 km) without the need for mid-air refueling.

In 2018, the formal announcement came, and though the bomber remains under wraps, we know it features a fly wing design.

Comparisons with the B-21 Raider

It is unclear if China plans to unveil the stealth bomber anytime soon or if this is just to take the shine off the B-21 Raider's launch scheduled in December. Either way, when the H-20 does eventually arrive, it will be compared to its U.S. counterparts, and everybody would like to know how it fares when compared to the B-21 Raider.

The arrival of H-20 will complete the PLA Air Force's plans to achieve a nuclear triad, an important milestone as it looks to up its deterrence game. The B-21 Raider's stealth technology is expected to be two generations ahead of the B-2 that first took flight in the late 1980s.

Similar advances can be expected in other areas as well, and the H-20 is likely to end up falling short in comparison to the B-21. However, experts told SCMP that the gap between the two is rapidly narrowing, and the U.S. will look to hide more than showcase the capabilities of the B-21 to prevent the Chinese from copying them.

It could also be that the H-20 will be worse off when compared to the B-2 as well since the U.S. bomber has seen upgrades over the years as well. What the H-20 does threaten for now is the U.S. monopoly over stealth bombers.

The next time the Chinese unveil an aircraft, it might just supersede the U.S.-built ones.

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