Long-range bomber may be in China's plans

Updated: 2015-07-07 08:15

By Zhao Lei(China Daily)

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The result of the H-6's lagging capability shows. The air force had never sent bombers far from Chinese territory until March, when several H-6Ks, the plane's latest variant, flew to the western Pacific Ocean to conduct an exercise.

"Although the H-6K is equipped with Russian Soloviev D-30KP-2 turbofan engines, gaining a claimed combat radius of 3,500 km rather than other variants' 1,800-km radius, it still flies too slowly," a military analyst who wished to be identified only as Fang told China Daily. "With a maximum speed of 1,050 km/h, the plane will be easily intercepted by supersonic fighter jets unless the Chinese air force dispatches a great number of fighter aircraft to escort the bombers."

To ensure an effective long-range strike capability, this is the time for China to develop an advanced bomber that has faster speed and stronger penetration ability, he said.

Continuous effort

Having realized the necessity of a powerful bomber, China has been striving to get one for a long time, Kanwa said in its report, quoting unidentified sources from Ukraine as claiming that China had repeatedly tried to get technical intelligence of the Soviet-era supersonic strategic bomber Tu-22M3 Backfire C, or even an actual plane from the eastern European nation. The attempts failed because of restrictions imposed by international conventions, the report said.

Over the past decade, speculation has arisen from time to time based on assertions made by Chinese aviation fans on military forums, leading to foreign industry publications making guesses about China's possible development of its own long-range strategic bomber.

Aviation Week and Space Technology, the US-based industry bible, reported in September that while the US air force works on the long-range strike bomber project, China is also proceeding with its own bomber plans.

An article in January last year in China Aviation News, a newspaper of Aviation Industry Corp of China, said preliminary research for an undisclosed project had been approved.

Sources told sina.com, a popular news portal in China, that the project is about China's long-range strategic bomber and that it was initiated by AVIC in 2008, Aviation Week and Space Technology reported.

In addition to such unconfirmed news, Chinese military enthusiasts have been further pleased by official revelations about the top leadership's support of the air force's drive for cutting-edge bombers.