Beijing’s new stealth bomber H-20 may have the capabilities of striking US military bases far beyond the Chinese shores with nuclear missiles, according to a report by a UK think thank.
The long-range subsonic warplane is one of China’s most mysterious military projects in recent years and currently under development.
The Pentagon believes that the bomber would have a range of over 5,000 miles and be able to hit US territories, such as Guam. Other military analysts, however, have hinted that H-20 might even have Hawaii within its reach.
The H-20 is a strategic bomber similar to the B-2 or B-21, according to the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The warplane is currently being developed by China (artist’s impression)
Royal United Services Institute, a London-based organisation, claims that H-20 would give China ‘a truly intercontinental power-projection capability’ well beyond the country’s seaboard.
‘Armed with nuclear and conventional standoff missiles, the H-20 would represent a major break from previous PLAAF (People’s Liberation Army Air Force) doctrine and equipment development practice,’ the independent think tank said in a recent study.
The report continued: ‘The PLAAF (and PLAN) are currently configured as regional forces for a conflict within the first island chain with additional specific capabilities aimed at neutralising or supressing the US base at Guam.
‘The H-20, by contrast, would give China a truly intercontinental power-projection capability.’
In its 2020 China Military Power Report, the United States Department of Defense said that H-20 would have a likely range of at least 8,500 kilometres (5,280 miles).
This means that the bomber could easily target America’s bases in Guam, a strategic US territory about 2,000 miles away from the Chinese coast.
Other experts have suggested that the Chinese army likely want to include Hawaii in its list of targets through H-20.
In a November report about H-20, The National Interest said: ‘The PLAAF wants a strategic bomber that can operate within the third chain, also known as the area that begins with the Aleutian Islands and extends beyond Hawaii.’
Once the development of H-20 is complete, China would join the US and Russia in possessing a three-pronged military force that can launch nuclear missiles from air, land and sea. Military aircraft are pictured flying in formation over Tiananmen Square in Beijing on October 1, 2019
Previous reports claimed that H-20 could be ready later this year.
Once the development of H-20 is complete, China would join the US and Russia in possessing a three-pronged military force that can launch nuclear missiles from air, land and sea.
Beijing has been weighing up when to roll out the bomber amid escalating tensions due to coronavirus.
Military sources told the South China Morning Post the bomber could make its first public appearance at this year’s Zhuhai Airshow from November 10 to 15.
The sources said: ‘The Zhuhai Airshow is expected to become a platform to promote China’s image and its success in pandemic control – telling the outside world that the contagion did not have any big impacts on Chinese defence industry enterprises.’
However, the major airshow which is held once every two years has been postponed this year. According to a statement posted by the expo’s organiser, the decision was made because of the Covid-19 pandemic. No new dates have been announced.
Tensions have been escalating between the US and China over coronavirus which is believed to have started in Wuhan. The two nations have accused each other of mishandling the crisis
The H-20 is a strategic bomber similar to the B-2 or B-21, according to the US Defense Intelligence Agency.
The bomber will be equipped with nuclear and conventional missiles with a maximum take-off weight of more than 200 tonnes.
Another source said: ‘Like intercontinental ballistic missiles, all strategic bombers can be used for delivering nuclear weapons … if China claimed it had pursued a national defence policy which is purely defensive in nature, why would it need such an offensive weapon?’
They also revealed that if the US deploys more F-35 supersonic fighter jets, it would push China to bring forward the unveiling of the bomber.
The US has already sold around 200 of the fighter jets to Japan and South Korea.
The H-20 is believed to have been in development since the early 2000s, but the project was first publicly announced in 2016.