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China's H-20 Nuclear Stealth Bomber Is About To Hit The Skies — And It Could Be A Game Changer In The South China Sea
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Chinese military experts said on Tuesday that the H-20 nuclear stealth bomber will soon make its maiden flight.
"The trial flight will come soon," Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert, told the Global Times.
The Global Times is under the state-run People's Daily, and has published hyperbolic articles before, according to The War Zone, but "Song does not officially speak for the Chinese government and his views are his own."
In August, China Central Television released a documentary disclosing that the H-20 is called Hong-20, meaning "bomber aircraft" in Chinese, Global Times reported.
The Hong-20 is often compared to the US' B-2 stealth bomber, but in May, China released a possible video teaser of it under a sheet, which looked eerily like a B-21 Raider.
Zhongping told the Global Times on Tuesday that disclosing the name meant that progress had been made on the Hong-20, and that the bomber's avionics, hydraulic pressure and electrical supply were probably completed.
Releasing the name might also act as a possible deterrence, Zhongping said. "Usually the development of equipment and weaponry of the People's Liberation Army is highly confidential."
Screenshot/China Defense Online
Indeed, the development and conception of the Hong-20 has been rather murky.
China's Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation may have begun developing the Hong-20 in the early 2000s, but it was only confirmed by a PLA Air Force commander in 2016.
In 2017, the Pentagon further confirmed that China was "developing a strategic bomber that officials expect to have a nuclear mission," also noting that "[past] PLA writings expressed the need to develop a 'stealth strategic bomber,' suggesting aspirations to field a strategic bomber with a nuclear delivery capability."
The Hong-20's specifications are still relatively unknown, but a researcher working with the US Air Force previously told Business Insider that the Hong-20 is a four engine stealth bomber and that the details have not been "revealed except it is to have a dual [nuclear and conventional] role."
The Hong-20 will also probably carry CJ-10K air-launched cruise missiles, have a range of 5,000 miles and a 10 ton payload, The War Zone reported.
The Asia Times, citing a previous Global Times article, reported that Fu Qianshao, a Chinese aviation pundit, said the goal was for the Hong-20 to have about a 7,500 mile range and a 20 ton payload.
While the latter estimates may very well be exaggerated, The War Zone reported that a range of 5,000 miles would certainly bolster Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea, and pose a threat to Taiwan and even US carriers in the Pacific.
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