Concept art of the H-18 bomber (Internet photo)
While model and concept art of the People's Liberation Army's H-18 strategic bomber were released on military websites in mainland China, internet users around the world have blasted the aircraft design as a joke since Beijing is currently unable to design an engine to power a long-range bomber, reports Duowei News, an outlet run by overseas Chinese.
The H-18 has been a hot topic on a US-based forum after internet users caught wind of a congressional report that said China is developing a new strategic bomber to replace its Xian H-6K. Visitors to the website said new bomber will be able to attack targets within the Third Island Chain — a formulation with little currency outside of China but which is said to extend from the Aleutian Islands to Australia and to be centered on Hawaii. The artwork also implied that the H-18 is more likely to be designed as a stealth bomber.
The range of the H-18 is estimated at between 8,000 and 9,000 kilometers. It is reportedly able to carry a payload of 72 LS-6 precision-guided glide bombs and four CJ-10A cruise missiles, while it is smaller in size than the US B-1 bomber. The two to three formations, each consisting of 12 H-18 bombers, led Chinese internet users to boast that it was capable of bringing total destruction to the US military base on Guam. When equipped with supersonic anti-ship missiles such as YJ-12 and YJ-100, the internet users claimed the bombers could be used to take out US carriers as well.
However, there were also voices on the forum questioning whether the bomber really exists, given that China is unable to design a suitable engine for its stealth fighter prototypes, much less a long-range stealth bomber. Duowei noted on the other hand that few believed China had the capability to develop advanced aircraft such as the Chengdu J-20, the Shenyang J-31 and the Sharp Sword ("Lijian") drone when they were only presented as models and concept art.
Senior Colonel Wu Guohui of the PLA Air Force admitted in an interview with the website of the state-run People's Daily that China is indeed planning to design its own stealth bomber. Since the PLA Air Force has changed its strategic doctrine from a defensive air force into an air force with first-strike capability, it is a rational choice to spend more resources in the development of a long-range bomber like the H-18, Wu said. If the H-18 comes to fruition, China will become the only nation except for the United States to operate a stealth bomber, he said.
Wu Guohui 吳國輝