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Why China’s New Xian H-20 Stealth Bomber Could Be Historic

Xian H-20 Stealth Bomber
A U.S. Air Force 509th Bomb Wing B-2 Spirit refuels from a 351st Aerial Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker during the Bomber Task Force training exercise over England, Aug. 29, 2019. The B-2 aircraft will operate out of RAF Fairford, England, and will exercise there at U.S. Air Forces in Europe's forward operating location for bombers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

Xian H-20 Stealth Bomber, What We Know Right Now – Although China’s upcoming advanced bomber shares some crucial aspects with the American B-2, it differs in several key elements.

The Xian H-20 is an advanced — and as of now — likely prototype stealth bomber in development by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, communist China’s flying branch. Unfortunately, the strategic bomber is known only from a small handful of images gleaned from online sources. And while a complete overview of the aircraft is not yet possible, we can still glean a few crucial details.

Xian H-20, Explained 

The Xian H-20 shares a few characteristics with the United States’ stealth bomber, the B-2 Spirit. A Chinese military recruitment video showing the bomber revealed little, though the bomber’s general shape is reminiscent of the B-2’s flying wing design from what can be gathered.

The flying wing design is one of (if not the) stealthiest type of airframe currently known. Unlike traditional airplanes that feature a conventional tail with horizontal and vertical control surfaces, both the Chinese H-20 and American B-2 eschew radar-reflective tails. Instead, the airframes rely on controls surfaces that run along the back of the flying wing design for maneuverability.

However, it could be the case that the H-20 takes a more hybrid approach, opting instead for ruddervators, essentially a V-shaped tail that combines horizontal and vertical tail control surfaces. Though not as “stealthy” as a true tailless design, a ruddervator simplifies control and adds a degree of maneuverability.

Like the B-2, the Xian H-20 appears to have dual engines buried within the airframe and the distinct beak-shaped nose of the Spirit, according to recently seen computer-generated images of the bomber.

Based on computer-generated images, some analysts believe the H-20 could be able to strike targets on or near the second island chain. Though definitions differ slightly, the second island chain stretches roughly from Japan’s Bonin island group to Guam, the westernmost parts of the Caroline Islands, and down into Western New Guinea, forming what is essentially the eastern part of the Philippine Sea.

Still, that pales in comparison to the B-2 Sprit’s range: nearly 7,000 miles, just 500 miles less than the distance from Sydney to Los Angeles. Moreover, the B-2 can also take on fuel while in flight, drastically increasing the bomber’s range.

H-20

Computer-Generated Image of China’s Xian H-20 Stealth Bomber. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

H-20

Artist Rendering of China’s Xian H-20 Stealth Bomber. Image Credit: Chinese Internet.

Xian H-20: What Happens Next?

Though many details on China’s Xian H-20 remain unknown, whatever the bomber’s characteristics are, it will in all likelihood be the first Asian stealth bomber — and that reason alone is cause for concern considering the state of various arms building in the wider Indo-Pacific region. Still, the United States military also has another and likely more powerful stealth bomber in the works: the highly-anticipated B-21 Raider.

Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson. 

Written By

Caleb Larson, a defense journalist based in Europe and holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. He lives in Berlin and writes on U.S. and Russian foreign and defense policy, German politics and culture.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Martin

    December 14, 2021 at 2:12 am

    Chinese JUNK. B21 will not be detected like the H-20. 25 F-22’s are in theater. More than the Commies have all together and India’s radar allready detected F-20 in Himalayan pass battle. China can get a little closer which is a milestone for those no good communist. USA Is far superior that’s why the commies copy everything we make. Broncos too. LCAC,S. C-17’s. We need to exterminate them all now. Not in 5 years which then will be virtually impossible. Cya

  2. Matt Brubach

    December 14, 2021 at 7:42 am

    How is this historic? The B-2 took it’s first flight 32 years ago and the Chinese have finally been able to make a cheap copy of it. The design was probably a part of the Intel that Chinese spies stole from American companies.

    There aren’t any aerospace development companies in China, just large photocopiers. Chinese aerospace companies should all be called Xerox. Everything about their aircraft is stolen from the United States or Russia. Everything. So, your use of the word “Advanced” when describing the Chinese version seems extremely generous. If an aircraft actually flies in China, it could be called Advanced.

  3. Vince Pascual

    December 14, 2021 at 5:52 pm

    The Chinese Commies are very good in one thing – stealing and copying Western design and technology. He’ll! The even reverse engineered the Russian Su-27! The majority, if not all of the military equipment, is also copied from othe countries, namely the United States. It really is time to take down the CCP before it’s too late.

  4. Micke

    December 14, 2021 at 6:34 pm

    All the talk about China copy this and that, they didn’t copy 5G that we don’t even have?
    Also the fact that China have far more granted international patents annually than the USA today, still alot people doesn’t wanna recognize this, but they will sooner or later.

  5. David Miller

    December 15, 2021 at 8:58 am

    I think that the United States is becoming very arrogant and complacent in its assumption that we are always the best. In ANY type of event, be it wrestling,football and …war, this attitude lacks confidence and undermines our capabilities. People need to reflect on the big picture and the slight of hand that is coming. Especially when we are being blatantly warned by China.
    My opinion… never underestimate the enemy. Never. And they have no conscience throwing bodies at our country and our people.

  6. Michael Micek

    December 15, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    This is an example of When we allow students from China and give them free raine. At our University they still our Technology. And a result an aircraft that is exactly like ours. The B-22 will be a far superior aircraft and do better then even the B-2

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