The US Air Force B-2 and soon B-21 will make up America’s stealth bomber fleet. China has its own plans in this regard: For a couple of years now, the U.S intelligence community has identified the existence of China’s secretive JH-XX, a supersonic, stealth, tactical bomber that is still under development.
“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 the report stated.
“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,” it continued.
However, the report wasn’t able to divulge much in terms of specific details regarding the aircrafts’ designs. It did note that “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.”
JH-XX: Answer to B-21 Raider?
“The B-21 is intended to stand in and hit heavily defended targets with special-purpose weapons that we can use to strike from a distance or by other means. We know the B-21 will bring unique characteristics with low observability and weapons,” said General Mark E. Weatherington, Commander of the Eighth Air Force and Commander of Joint-Global Strike Operations Center, while speaking with The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, per EurAsian Times.
Like the B-21, the JH-XX will also be taken seriously in any military conflict. The War Zone noted that “previous reports had described the JH-XX model as having a main ventral weapons bay, as well as separate side-mounted bays for what appeared to be air-to-air missiles. DIA’s report makes specific reference to the aircraft’s ability to employ ‘long-range’ air-to-air missiles, which China is actively testing, as well as ‘precision-guided munitions.’”
The same reports have indicated that the plane could possess a maximum takeoff weight of between sixty and one hundred tons and boast a range of approximately one thousand to two thousand miles.
“With this range, the JH-XX would still have the ability to challenge strategic type targets, such as U.S. military facilities in Japan and possibly even on Guam, as well as bases in India, the South China Sea and beyond,” The War Zone writes.
“The design could prioritize speed, as well as stealth, too. This could give the smaller fighter-bomber added advantages when it comes to sortie rates and for successfully penetrating through an enemy’s integrated air defense network. Above all else, it allows for multi-role operations, including supporting long-range air-to-air missions, without a heavy reliance on vulnerable tankers or even the use of coastal airfields, which would be the most vulnerable to attack during an all-out conflict,” it concludes.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.