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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

China’s H-20 Stealth Bomber “Years” Away From Becoming Threat: U.S. Defense Officials

H-20 Stealth Bomber
China's H-20 Stealth Bomber. Credit: 19FortyFive Design Work and Creative Commons.

Senior Pentagon officials are skeptical that China‘s new H-20 stealth bomber – which could be unveiled “soon,” according to a report in the South China Morning Post quoting a lone “military insider” – will be any threat to U.S. forces in the near term. Indeed, while U.S. Defense Department officials are worried that such a bomber over the long term will be of concern, at least for now, U.S. defense officials that spoke to 19FortyFive claim China’s new stealth bomber will not change the strategic balance in Asia for years to come.

H-20 Stealth Bomber: What Some Think in the Pentagon

“We tend to forget how long China took to test, debut, test again and produce in any sort of numbers past pieces of key ‘stealth’ aviation hardware – like their J-20 stealth fighter,” explained a Senior U.S. Defense Department official, who asked to speak on background as they were not authorized to comment on such matters. “Yes, China could very well show off to the public soon this H-20 stealth bomber everyone has been talking about for years. It is another thing to get it ready for any combat deployment. That is years away.”

Another Senior U.S. Defense official was of a similar mind. “China has dreams of copying the United States and, to some small extent, Russia when it comes to the development and deployment of stealth technology. I believe they will have stealth bombers as they would make their air force more powerful. However, we should be cautious in hyping them as they won’t change the status quo in Asia for quite a few years.”

What China Is Saying

A recent report, as noted above, claimed that the H-20 stealth bomber, a possible response to the B-21 Raider stealth bomber set to debut next month publically, “will be launched soon.” The South China Morning Post’s reporting is based on a single “military insider,” with oddly no other identifying information cited. “The aircraft is ready to be introduced, it’s just a matter of choosing the right timing,” explained this mysterious insider.

Expert: We Have More Questions Than Answers on H-20

Experts 19FortyFive reached out to for comment on the H-20 point to the fact that we know very little about the supposed stealth bomber, beyond a possible range of 5,200 miles as cited in Pentagon reports, and that it could be used for conventional and nuclear precision strikes. “At this point, we can make educated guesses about the H-20, but the key things we need to know are how many bombers China intends to build, how stealthy they are compared to the detection capabilities the U.S. and its allies have throughout Asia, and how advanced it is compared to the older B-2 Spirit and new B-21,” explained a Japanese intelligence officer who spoke to 19FortyFive on background. “Until we get some of those key details, we will keep speculating. But we will get some answers – and maybe quite soon.”


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

A Reaction to the B-21 Unveil?

Some experts point to the recent announcement that the U.S. Air Force will unveil its new B-21 Raider stealth bomber on December 2nd and that China wants to leverage the H-20 to keep up the narrative that its military can catch up and surpass America technologically in the sky. “I find it rather odd such a report comes out now in Chinese media that the H-20 is all of a sudden ready for its debut after years of rumors. My gut tells me China does not want to get upstaged,” explained a Senior Japanese Defense Offical. “I would not be shocked if we woke up one morning before December 2 and China showed us the H-20. I would not be shocked one bit.”

This piece has been updated to include new video footage from our YouTube channel and a new hero image. 

Written By

Harry J. Kazianis (@Grecianformula) is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive and serves as President and CEO of Rogue States Project, a bipartisan national security think tank. He has held senior positions at the Center for the National Interest, the Heritage Foundation, the Potomac Foundation, and many other think tanks and academic institutions focused on defense issues. He served on the Russia task force for U.S. Presidential Candidate Senator Ted Cruz, and in a similar task force in the John Hay Initiative. His ideas have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, CNN, CNBC, and many other outlets across the political spectrum. He holds a graduate degree in International Relations from Harvard University and is the author of The Tao of A2/AD, a study of Chinese military modernization. Kazianis also has a background in defense journalism, having served as Editor-In-Chief at The Diplomat and Executive Editor for the National Interest.