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What Makes China’s New H-20 Stealth Bomber So Dangerous

H-20 Stealth Bomber
Image: Chinese Weibo.

China’s H-20 strategic bomber, or sometimes called the Xian H-20, is a flying wedge type of stealth airplane that borrows its design from the American B-2 bomber. The H-20 is expected to be nuclear-capable. Its claimed range of 7,500 miles without the need for aerial refueling could threaten the United States

This bomber would give the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, or PLAAF, a critical new component for its nuclear triad, a development that makes China more of a strategic player in great-power competition with the United States and Russia.

The H-20 Is a B-2 Clone

The Xian H-20 can be compared to the B-2, as Warrior Maven’s Kris Osborn pointed out. “It features a similar rounded upper fuselage, blended wing body, curved upper air inlets and essentially no vertical structures. There appears to be a fair amount of evidence, simply available to the naked eye, to demonstrate China’s overt ‘copycat’ maneuver,” Osborn wrote.

The new bomber would have a payload of 45 tons, meaning the H-20 could carry nuclear-armed bombs or missiles – maybe even nuclear-tipped hypersonic cruise missiles. The H-20 might also equip conventional munitions such as land-attack cruise missiles that could threaten U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific region. It may not be until the late 2020s before the H-20 is produced in numbers, but the dual-use capability, stealth characteristics, and long range make the aircraft’s development worth tracking.

The PLAAF would not need a large fleet of H-20 bombers to make a difference in the Indo-Pacific or to target the United States with nuclear weapons. It is also developing the JH-XX fighter-bomber concept. Both aircraft could be escorted by the J-20 Mighty Dragon, a fighter with radar-evading capabilities that would enable attacks against Taiwan, Guam, and Japan.

H-20 Stealth Bomber

H-20 artist rendition. Image: Creative Commons.

But China also continues its push to operate beyond its neighborhood. It wants a blue-water navy with a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. It has strategic nuclear missiles such as the DF-41 that analysts fear can reach the United States. It is developing an intercontinental submarine-launched nuclear missile called the JL-3. Now it strives to improve another leg of its nuclear triad with a nuclear-equipped strategic bomber.

H-20 – Anything But a Peaceful Rise for China 

The Chinese are adept at copying American designs and then developing them over time. This ruthless approach is part of Beijing’s pursuit of global status. It wants to overawe its neighbors and make the United States take notice, especially when it comes to nuclear weapons. 

It is no longer a peaceful rise for the Chinese, John A. Tirpak wrote in Air Force Magazine.

“Part of China’s intimidation campaign is the quickening pace of its development and fielding of a nuclear triad,” Tirpak wrote. “China is on track to field more than 700 nuclear warheads by 2027 and more than 1,000 by 2030, versus about 200 noted in the 2019 edition of the China Military Power Report.” 

H-20

What could be China’s H-20 Stealth Bomber. Image: YouTube Screenshot.

Along with the number of nuclear devices, China knows it needs a stealth delivery system for the aerial leg of the nuclear triad. Thus the H-20 will play an important role in the drive toward nuclear parity with the United States and Russia. Beijing hopes to match Moscow’s nuclear triad. It may want to force the Americans to the negotiating table and bargain for an arms treaty that could give it parity with the United States, equating to world prestige. Or, Beijing could resist negotiations and continue to build up its nuclear capabilities unabated. Either way, China’s rise is anything but peaceful – and the H-20 is part of that narrative.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. MN

    May 9, 2022 at 4:17 pm

    Obviously a head up although not surprising. This development has been ongoing for years without hindrance.
    We have to accept China as the new Soviet Union type of adversary. It is not a partner, it is not the West’s workplace anymore but a superpower almost surpassing the US in potency and power projection. Even more succesful on the side of soft power projection and new type of colonisation of, again, the poorest of countries.
    As developments in Europe take up a lot of attention and means, we do have to keep the eye on the ball here. A powerful China is a existentional threat to Western values of free commerce and democracy. It is not unthinkable they will be able to project power on Western shores within a decade.

  2. Richard Wilson

    May 9, 2022 at 8:23 pm

    As the recent events in Ukraine have vividly shown that Russia is not as formidable as they would like us to believe China is in much of the same situation the the B2 which has been flying for over 20 years

  3. SC

    May 9, 2022 at 9:09 pm

    Well yeah they stole US technology. Why wouldn’t it be dangerous.

  4. Pagar

    May 9, 2022 at 11:24 pm

    Biden and his demi-god obama have to shoulder the blame for the emergence of h-20.

    Obama’s many mistakes gifted the world the revelations exposed by edward snowden and crippled US intelligence operations against china.

    Biden avoided confrontation with xi jinping who’s expanding his influence globally and made the mistake of fighting putin who had nothing to do with hunter’s laptop contents.

    Hunter had lucrative dealings with xi junping’s underlings who also shipped large quantities of opioids abroad earning massive profits and indirectly diverted part of profits into hunter’s pockets.

    Thus blame biden and obama.

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