Concept art for the Chinese long-range stealth bomber. (Internet photo)
Senior colonel Wu Guohui of the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has confirmed to the website of the People's Daily that China is designing a long-range stealth bomber with similar capabilities to the F-117 and B-2 of the United States Air Force.
When the PLAAF was founded in 1949, few resources were spent on the development of long-range bombers as Mao Zedong believed that ground forces were much more important for China to defeat foreign invaders. In the era of the Korean War and Taiwan Strait Crisis, the PLAAF was initially established as a tactical air force to support the army in combat against the United Nations forces and the Chinese Nationalist (Kuomintang) government. The modern PLAAF only began to take shape after Deng Xiaoping came to power in the late 1970s after Mao's death.
Wu said that a long-range stealth bomber is able to launch more than one missile during an aerial engagement because it cannot be detected by enemy radar, and that is why the US is willing to spend US$1.2 billion on 80 to 100 second-generation stealth bombers. Realizing that the United States is also developing a second-generation stealth bomber based on the B-2 stealth jet, Wu said that it is now time for China to seek a replacement for its Cold War-era H-6 strategic bomber.
Both the United States and Russia are developing new bombers and China will certainly have its stealth bomber too, Wu said. China's ambition to build a stealth bomber was first reported by John Reed, a US military analyst, in an article written for Foreign Policy magazine in June. Citing aircraft models displayed on the Chinese website, Reed stated that Beijing would usually demonstrate small-scale models before constructing the real aircraft.
Meanwhile, Vasiliy Kashin, an Russian analyst from the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies told the the Moscow-based Voice of Russia that the new Chinese stealth bomber must be able to launch an attack against targets within North America if it really wants to pose a national security threat to the United States.
Some analyst have questioned China's ability to design its own stealth bomber, however. An source said that no other country in the world except the United States has the proper experience in developing a stealth bomber. Even countries like Russia with advanced aviation industries are limited to the design of wind tunnels for the stealth bomber. The source added that China cannot even design the engine for its J-20 fifth generation stealth fighter, and must rely on Saturn AL-31 engines from Russia through the purchase of Su-35 fighters.
Richard Aboulafia, the vice president of the US-based Analysis Teal Group Corporation, said that it is much harder for China to develop an actual aircraft than a model airplane. If this stealth bomber is designed to be equipped with a Chinese engine and avionics, it will take China at least a decade to accomplish its goal, Aboulafia said.
Wu Guohui 吳國輝