China‘s new JH-XX stealth bomber is coming soon – at least we think so if reporting is accurate. However, how dangerous will this bomber be when rolled out, tested, and deployed? Can it compute with the new B-21 bomber that is also in development? Could the secretive Chinese JH-XX stealth bomber be similar to an American conceptual design? China’s air force could be taking inspiration from a proposed airplane from a major U.S. defense contractor offered up to the U.S. Air Force in the past. The next-generation JH-XX may have similarities to the proposed FB-22, a bomber from Lockheed Martin that the U.S. Air Force passed on. The FB-22 was a derivative of the F-22 stealth fighter and was planned to be a deep-strike bomber that could penetrate hostile air space.
What Is the JH-XX All About?
First, about the that JH-XX stealth bomber. To be honest, not much is known about the Chinese bomber. It is believed to be stealthy and supersonic. The Chinese envision it to bomb targets within the Indo-Pacific region and even around the world (of course depending on range), according to a military power report on China from the U.S. Department of Defense presented to Congress in 2019. The report said the JH-XX could be ready for flight by 2025.
Grow Stealth Characteristics from Existing Fighters
The JH-XX would borrow from the current stealth technologies in fighter planes the Chinese are flying such as the Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon that is already patrolling the East and South China Seas. The DOD said in its Congressional report that the JH-XX would be between 60 to 100 tons and almost 100-feet long.
Controlling the Region
It would also fire long-range air-to-air missiles from a ventral weapons bay. The range would be in the neighborhood of 1,000 to 2,000-miles. That would allow it to threaten American bases on Japan and Guam. The bomber could easily attack Taiwan. It’s not clear if the JH-XX would be nuclear-capable.
May be Similar to the FB-22?
Long-range, stealthy, and fast – sounds like the ideas behind the FB-22. The FB-22 bomber was inspired by the F-22 Raptor fighter. Could the Raptor’s enviable characteristics be transferred into a new American bomber program? This was going to be a departure, maybe even a bridge too far. The F-22 does not have long-range bomber characteristics. Its operational range is only 600-miles. Plus, the F-22 internal payload is not large enough to handle much beyond four GPS-guided 250-pound Small Diameter bombs.
FB-22 Would Have Delta-Wings to Handle Larger Payload
The FB-22 would need a longer fuselage. If that didn’t work, it could use a delta-wing design with a much larger surface area than the F-22. The concept would allow for a back-seat Weapons Systems Officer. The idea was an airframe that could carry 15,000 pounds of weapons. This included not only larger bombs but medium-range air-to-air missiles to protect them from enemy fighters.
High Speed With More Fuel
New engines borrowed from the F-35 Lightning II would give the bomber a top speed of MACH 1.9. The bigger airplane would carry almost double the amount of fuel than the F-22 with 300-percent more range (2,000 miles) than the stealth fighter.
It stands to reason that the Chinese would want to copy aspects of American warplanes. They are believed to have stolen plans for the F-35 and are keen to match conceptual abilities of existing or planned airplanes from the United States. The JH-XX is also likely to take inspiration from the B-21 Raider, a next-generation stealth bomber that the United States is building now. China is like a chess player that studies moves in books and seeks to emulate existing strategies instead of formulating its own. It appears these gambits echo what it wants to achieve with next-generation airplane design.
Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, Ph.D., 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.