China Plans To Unveil H-20 Stealth Bomber
At Air Force Anniversary 2019. Less than a week after Chinese state media
said the H-20 stealth bomber program was making “great progress,” there are now reports
that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, might be planning to publicly reveal the plane
during celebrations the mark the 70th anniversary of its founding in 2019. It has also emerged
that the China showed off a logo featuring the silhouette of a flying wing-style aircraft
at a recent official gala promoting plans to establish a “first-class strategic bomber
division,” which may also be a nod to the up-coming H-20.
On Oct, 2018, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s own website published a story
regarding a morale-boosting gathering at an unspecified bomber unit assigned to the People’s
Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command. On the backdrop of the main stage of the event
was a logo featuring the outline of what appeared to be a tailless flying wing aircraft with
winglets. Details about the H-20’s exact design and
capabilities remain limited, but experts have widely described it as a flying wing type
that is broadly similar to the U.S. Air Force’s B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. Since the silhouette
does not clearly reflect any existing China aircraft, bombers or otherwise, it is possible
that it could be a reference to the future stealth bomber.
Regarding the H-20’s possible participation in a China anniversary parade. A China Central
Television broadcast in August 2018 had been the first to officially use the bomber’s
nomenclature and the presenter reaffirmed that the plane was a “new long-distance
strategic bomber,” which many took as an indication that the design was increasingly
mature. It is important to note that China’s own
report on the gala did not make any reference to the H-20. The other state-media reports
did not include any official, on the record statements from Chinese government officials.
The logo’s appearance, along with the rumors of the H-20’s up-coming public debut in
2019, is also just the latest in a string of semi-official public references to the
new bomber since May 2018. The graphical design could reflect the service’s plans for the
H-20, or the development of advanced aviation capabilities in general, without necessarily
being an accurate depiction of the aircraft’s actual design.
Of course, it is also entirely possible that the Chinese government is allowing this speculation
about the H-20 to run in state media outlets simply as a way of posturing against the United
States. U.S.-China relations are at their coldest point in recent memory over a host
of intersecting disputes. Experts believe that the H-20’s development
first started in the late 1990s or early 2000s and could actually be in service by around
2025. With this time frame in mind, a first flight in the next year would be well in line
with known development schedules. The B-2 first flew in 1989 and reached initial operational
capability in 1997. H-20 with a speculated unrefueled range of
up to 5,000 miles and the ability to carry at least 10 tons of weapons, including nuclear-capable
land-attack and conventional anti-ship cruise missiles, the H-20, if it were to become a
reality soon, could represent an entirely new and credible threat to U.S. All of this
could easily put the United States, as well as its defense industry, on the defensive,
as it seeks to develop countermeasures to the new Chinese capabilities.
Still, actually showing off the H-20 would have a far more pronounced impact on these
fronts. China similarly sent waves through international defense communities. So, while
it still remains to be seen whether these reports and rumors will actually lead to the
H-20 emerging in public in the coming year, the Chinese do appear to be increasingly setting
the stage for a big reveal. Bring the H-20 out into the light?
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