As the U.S. mounts pressure on China by flying B-52 bombers near the disputed South China Sea islands, the Asian giant has been hard at work developing a new long-range strategic bomber, IHS Jane's Defence Weekly quoted Chinese national media as saying.
General Ma Xiaotian, commander of the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF), confirmed that China is building a new strategic bomber. The new bomber is expected to be fielded "sometime in the future," China Daily quoted General Xiaotian as saying.
Apart from the confirmation, details about the bomber aircraft are non existent.
It is not known if the new bomber aircraft is an upgraded version of the current Xian H-6 or completely new design.
Conceptual drawings of the new bomber have surfaced online, but they do not indicate the possibility of any official inputs on these designs, the IHS Jane's report noted.
Currently, China has around 120 Xian H-6 bombers, which are license produced version of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16. The Xian H-6 bombers feature two Russian Soloviev D-30KP-2 turbofan engines with ability to carry 9,000 kg bomb load in an internal weapons bay or six underwing hardpoints.
H-6K is the latest variant of H-6 bombers. It reportedly features several modifications on the original and has a combat radius of 3,500 km. China already has about 13 of the upgraded H-6Ks.
Over the years, China has made great strides in indigenous aircraft development. It has rolled out indigenously made J-20 and J-31 fighters and Y-20 airlifter. But the country has fallen short on developing indigenous engines that can fire these massive aircraft. It has a long way to match what Russia and the U.S. have achieved it this field. That said, it won't be long before China plays catch up, the report cautioned.