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The terrifying H-20 warplane will give China a “truly intercontinental” capacity and expand its target range way beyond its own borders, according to a report by a leading think tank. The bomber is still under development but US defence chiefs believe it will be able to target US overseas territories such as Guam in the South Pacific.
The H-20 would give China a truly intercontinental power-projection capability
Some security experts warn the H-20’s range could be as long as 7,500 miles which would bring Hawaii within striking distance.
The plane’s potential prowess was highlighted in a report by the London-based Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI).
The RUSI paper shines a spotlight on how China and Russia are beefing up their air forces with next-generation planes and new high-tech weapons.
The report says: “Armed with nuclear and conventional stand-off missiles, the H-20 would represent a major break from previous People’s Liberation Army Air Force doctrine and equipment development practice.”
It said the Chinese air force is currently set up as a regional force capable of penetrating the first island chain – a series of archipelagos in the Pacific stretching from the Kuril Islands, through Japan and on to the Philippines.
But it warned: “The H-20, by contrast, would give China a truly intercontinental power-projection capability.”
Beijing unveiled plans for the H-20 in 2016 and the subsonic bomber may be ready to enter service within the next five years.
The RUSI report said: “China has developed and introduced into service the first credible non-US-made LO, or fifth-generation, fighter in the form of the J-20A ‘Mighty Dragon’.
“Subsequent developments are likely to increase its LO characteristics and sensor capabilities, as well as engine performance, with construction of the first production prototypes of the J-20B having begun in 2020.
“Overall, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force and People’s Liberation Army Navy are rapidly improving their combat air capabilities.
“This includes a focus on the sensors, platforms, network connectivity and weapons needed to compete with the US in cutting-edge, predominantly passive-sensor air combat tactics.”
The jet is due to replace the H-6 model as a nuclear-capable stealth bomber to rival the American B-2 series, whose wing design helps it to evade detection by radar.
Former PLA instructor Song Zhongping said the H-20 had been designed to reach US territory as part of China’s nuclear triad, which also includes ground and sea-launched missiles.
He said: “The fly-wing design means it is unlikely to have aerial combat capability, therefore, stealth is more important.”
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Zhang Zhaozhong, from the National Defence University, said stealth was the core capability for the H-20.
He said traditional “flying bomb trucks” had been replaced by agile multi-purpose fighters while improved air defence systems mean high-speed penetration attempts are unlikely to succeed.
Mr Zhang said: “Stealth has been chosen and proven effective by both the American and Russian next-generation strategic bombers.
“Basically it is confirmed the next generation Chinese strategic bomber will use stealth, probably similar to the US B-21.”
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