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China’s Xian H-20 stealth bomber could double nation’s strike range, possibly debut in November

An artist’s impression of what the H-20 may look like. (Weibo/Released)
May 05, 2020

China’s new supersonic Xian H-20 stealth bomber, which could double the nation’s strike range, may be making its first public debut later this year in November.

As the world tries to treat the coronavirus pandemic, Beijing is reportedly “carefully considering” how to unveil the bomber. The bomber could pose a threat to the nation’s within the strike range, which includes South Korea, Australia and Japan, the South China Morning Post reports. If the coronavirus is sufficiently under control, China may unveil it at the Zhuhai Airshow in November.

“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 defense industry enterprises,” an anonymous source told the South China Morning Post.

However, there have been previous reports that have stated the H-20 would be unveiled earlier, which China failed to do. Chinese state-run media announced in October 2018 that the Chinese military would unveil the H-20 during a parade celebrating the air division’s 70th anniversary in 2019.

“The Beijing leadership is still carefully considering whether its commission will affect regional balance, especially as regional tensions have been escalating over the Covid-19 pandemic,” another unnamed source said.

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The Xian H-20 complete’s the nation nuclear triad, meaning it has air, land and sea vessels that can launch weapons with nuclear capabilities.

The second source added: “Like intercontinental ballistic missiles, all strategic bombers can be used for delivering nuclear weapons … if China claimed it had pursued a national defense policy which is purely defensive in nature, why would it need such an offensive weapon?”

Chinese publications began speculating about the H-20 is the earlier 2010s, the National Interest reported.

“If the H-20 does have the range and passable stealth characteristics attributed to it, it could alter the strategic calculus between the United States and China by exposing U.S. bases and fleets across the Pacific to surprise air attacks,” according to the National Interest.

According to the Daily Star, the H-20 reportedly has four non-afterburning WS-10A Taihang turbofan engines sunk into the top of the wing surface. It also reportedly has inlets in the wings that are in an S-shaped saw-toothed configuration, which could minimize radar visibility.

“China is likely to at least double the size of its nuclear stockpile in the course of implementing the most rapid expansion and diversification of its nuclear arsenal in China’s history,” DIA director, Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley Jr., said in a 2019 speech. “We expect this modernization to continue and this trajectory is consistent with Chinese President Xi’s vision for China’s military, which he laid out at the 19th Party Congress and stated that China’s military will be ‘fully transformed into a first-tier force’ by 2050.”

The H-20 is the latest development for the Chinese military. The nation’s armed forces have quickly been expanding their capabilities, recently deploying its first home-grown aircraft carrier, with more planned in the future.