01 Nov 19. Taiwan Cabinet Finalizes Budget for F-16V Procurement. The Executive Yuan yesterday finalized a special budget request of NT$247.2bn (US$8.12bn) to procure 66 F-16V jets from the US. The request comes on the heels of the Special Act on the Procurement of Updated Fighter Jets passed by the Legislative Yuan on Tuesday, which capped the budget at NT$250bn. The requested amount includes the cost of the jets, their avionics, other software and hardware, and research and development (R&D) costs, which total about NT$246.7bn, while on-site technological advisory, training and transportation costs take up the remaining NT$500m, the budget request shows.
The request seeks funding over six fiscal years from next year through 2026, when the nation expects to have received all of the warplanes. Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics official Lee Kuo-hsing (李國興) said that NT$232.2bn would be sourced through loans, while NT$15bn would be drawn from surplus revenue. Government debt would not exceed the amount it is allowed to borrow — 40.6 percent of the average GDP of the previous three fiscal years, Lee said.
The addition to the national debt would be about NT$700bn after factoring in the costs of the F-16Vs and the remainder of the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program, Lee said.
The overall national debt is at 31.5 percent of average GDP for the past three fiscal years, so there is allowance for 9.1 percent more, or NT$1.6trn, he said.
Asked by reporters why the unit price of the F-16V is higher than what the US quoted other nations for the F-35, which Taipei initially expressed interest in purchasing, Deputy Minister of National Defense Chang Guan-chung said that the comparison was “unfair,” as the quote for the F-35 did not include R&D costs, estimated at about US$53bn. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Taipei Times)
31 Oct 19. Japan sounds warning on China’s growing military might. Defence minister Taro Kono says new missile systems have added to ‘global anxiety.’ Taro Kono, Japan’s defence minister, said China’s ‘budget, doctrine, weapon systems, the whereabouts of their weapon systems and their organisation are not transparent.’ The new missile systems China displayed in its national day parade last month will add to “global anxiety” about its rising military power and Beijing needs to explain itself to the world, Japan’s defence minister has warned in an interview with the Financial Times. Taro Kono, who moved from the foreign ministry to defence in September, said China has not outlined its military budget, strategic goals or doctrine.
Beijing’s new ballistic and hypersonic cruise missiles are thus a cause of alarm for its neighbours. But Mr Kono heavily downplayed the chances of Japan playing host to US intermediate range missiles, which Washington wants to deploy in Asia, and said Japan does not intend to forge military ties with Taiwan. His comments highlight Tokyo’s delicate position as it seeks to maintain its security against China’s growing military might, while avoiding becoming a proxy for a US confrontation with Beijing. “[China’s] budget, doctrine, weapon systems, the whereabouts of their weapon systems and their organisation are not transparent,” said Mr Kono. “We have been urging them to explain . . . but we really haven’t seen an improvement in their transparency. So, these new weapons systems simply add to the global anxiety.”
At a military parade on October 1 to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Beijing displayed four new missile systems, including hypersonic weapons that are hard to intercept and could be used to strike land targets or warships in Japan. Military vehicles carry the DF-41 intercontinental nuclear missile through Tiananmen Square during a parade in Beijing on October 1 © Roman Pilipey/EPA The hardware was unveiled amid rising tensions in the region, from ballistic missile tests by North Korea to the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. The treaty banned land-based missiles with ranges of between 500km and 5,500km and the US is now keen to deploy such missiles in Asia. Some experts fear that could spark an arms race with China, which was not party to the INF treaty.
Mr Kono said there were no discussions with the US about basing conventional intermediate range missiles in Japan and the deployment of nuclear weapons on Japanese soil was inconceivable. “The US doesn’t have non-nuclear missiles that can be deployed yet. Maybe they’re in the phase of development,” he said. “We have not been discussing any of it. We know that China needs to be included in the next round of a missile treaty and they need to be included in nuclear disarmament negotiations. I think the whole world needs to push China into it.” China flaunts its military power Subtitles unavailable Mr Kono said his three top priorities were to improve Japan’s readiness by rolling out new equipment and cyber space capabilities; improve conditions for troops, given the difficulty of recruiting in Japan’s ageing society; and to strengthen the nation’s defence industrial base. He insisted that was possible despite increased spending on US equipment such as F35 stealth fighters and the Aegis Ashore missile defence system.
Donald Trump, the US president, has put pressure on Japan to buy weapons to reduce the trade deficit. Recommended Chinese military China displays military advances in show of strength Mr Kono said Japan will buy ready-assembled F35s from the US to save money but wants to develop a next-generation fighter at home to replace its ageing F2 aircraft, working jointly with a foreign partner. Tokyo has an experimental test aircraft, known as the X-2 “Shinshin”, but it is still a long way from being able to produce a fully-fledged fighter. The defence minister said he was open to co-operation with a European programme, such as the UK’s proposed Tempest fighter, but hinted Japan would prefer to develop a new aircraft with the US. “Well, I think we’re going to explore all the possibilities. But definitely we need to secure interoperability between US forces in Japan and the Self-Defence Forces,” Mr Kono said. “We are now studying it and we would like to start the actual development process in the next fiscal year.” (Source: FT.com)
30 Oct 19. China’s Second Aircraft Carrier Prepares for Commissioning Ceremony: Report. China’s second aircraft carrier, the first domestically built, appears to be preparing for a possible commissioning ceremony since it returned from its eighth sea trial, photos and videos showed.
Troops in white naval uniforms lined the warship’s flight deck on the morning of October 24 and practiced an inspection ceremony, Hong Kong-based news website wenweipo.com reported on Tuesday. A barge loaded with a crane approached the bow of the ship, as workers on the crane painted a huge “1” on the ship’s hull, according to photos and videos posted in the wenweipo.com report.
However, the number has since been erased and no further markings were visible as of Tuesday, the report said.
“Painting a hull number is usually a sign that a warship is about to join military service,” a military expert who asked not to be named told the Global Times on Wednesday.
The moves mentioned in the report could indicate that the aircraft carrier will be commissioned soon, military enthusiasts said.
China’s first aircraft carrier Liaoning was delivered and commissioned to the PLA Navy on September 25, 2012 in Dalian after years of refitting and sea trials. Then president and Central Military Commission chairman Hu Jintao endorsed the naming certificate of Liaoning in a commissioning ceremony, the Xinhua News Agency reported then.
Hu and then premier Wen Jiabao oversaw the ceremony, as Navy honor guards received inspection on board of the ship, according to the Xinhua report.
The Liaoning has the hull number 16, and many military observers expect the yet-to-be-named second carrier will bear the number 17.
The second aircraft carrier is moored at the Dalian Shipyard in Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, after it returned from its eighth sea trial held between October 15 and 20, wenweipo.com reported.
Military experts told the Global Times as the carrier first set out on its eighth sea trial the voyage would likely serve as an examination of the warship’s readiness for final delivery, and that they expected the ship to be commissioned into the Chinese Navy this year. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Global Times)
31 Oct 19. North Korea – Sea of Japan: North Korea launches suspected short-range ballistic missiles without issuing notice. On 31 October, North Korea conducted at least two suspected short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) launches from a test site in South Pyongyang Province with splashdown in the Sea of Japan within FIR Pyongyang (ZKKP), according to international media outlets. Since May, North Korea has conducted a combined total over 20 additional SRBM and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test launches into the Sea of Japan. There are no indications that North Korea provided advanced warning of the SRBM and SLBM launches noted above during 2019 to aviation governing bodies and no NOTAMs were issued regarding such activity for FIR Pyongyang (ZKKP). In early May 2018, North Korea committed to the ICAO that it would provide advanced warning of “activity hazardous to aviation” within its airspace, such as prior notice of artillery, rocket and/or missile tests. ICAO previously called on North Korea to comply with international aviation standards related to missile and weapons tests in order to prevent the recurrence of “potentially hazardous activities” on 7 October 2017. In late September 2018, the US FAA extended its NOTAM and SFAR for North Korean airspace through 18 September 2020 (KICZ A0018/18). The UK, French and German civil aviation authorities also have active advisories in place for North Korean airspace due to the enduring potential for unannounced missile or rocket launches to occur within FIR Pyongyang (ZKKP) with little to no notice.
The apparent SRBM and SLBM tests by North Korea since 4 May mark the first confirmed ballistic missile launches by the country since 29 November 2017 when an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) was fired from an area near Pyongyang with splashdown in the Sea of Japan. Our analysis has now documented at least 48 unannounced ballistic missile launches conducted by North Korea since the start of 2017. North Korea stated on 20 April 2018 that it would unilaterally suspend ICBM and medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) tests. However, North Korea has not committed to suspending tactical guided missile launches, SRBM or SLBM tests, space launch vehicle (SLV) programme activity, rocket engine development and guided/unguided rocket or artillery exercises. Osprey analysis indicates there has been a monthly average of 36 aviation security, safety and operational incidents recorded in North Korean airspace from March-October 2019; compared to an average of 11 incidents per month from July 2018 through February 2019. We assess there remains increased likelihood of additional ballistic missile launches through 2019 into the Sea of Japan by North Korea with no NOTAMs issued for FIR Pyongyang (ZKKP). Despite the claimed suspension of ICBM and MRBM tests, we assess the continued potential for unannounced rocket, tactical guided missile, SRBM and SLV launches along with artillery live-firing makes North Korea a HIGH risk airspace environment at all altitudes. The airspace situation is assessed to remain in such a state until a comprehensive agreement between North and South Korea along with the US is reached. Such an agreement, coupled with follow-through on its pledge to provide advance notice of “activity hazardous to aviation,” would likely lead to the complete easing of restrictions and advisories in effect for overflight of North Korean airspace currently enacted by leading civil aviation governing bodies.
Approvals: As a precaution, conduct operational risk-based identification of divert and alternate airports for flight schedules with planned stops at aerodromes in the country or with overflight of the airspace. Operators are advised to ensure flight plans are correctly filed, attain proper special approvals for flight operations to sensitive locations and obtain relevant overflight permits prior to departure. In addition, ensure crews scheduled to operate to or over the country in the near term are fully aware of the latest security situation.
Missile Launches: Unannounced rocket and missile launches that transit airspace used by civilian aircraft pose a latent threat to operations at all altitudes. The country has a history of not issuing adequate notice of activities in its airspace that could affect flight safety. Multiple safety of flight concerns emanate from a situation where a missile malfunctions during the boost, mid-course or terminal phases of flight. Such an event would cause the missile to fly an unplanned trajectory and altitude profile which could expose overflying aircraft to mid-air collision, route diversion and or debris splashdown issues. Leading civil aviation governing bodies have standing notices advising operators of the threat to civil aviation in the airspace due to unannounced military activity, rocket test firings and or missile launches.
Aviation Safety: Do not act based on unverified information; however, operators should be flexible in their itineraries and prepared to adjust them due to an increased potential for heightened aviation safety and/or security measures for the airspace and/or airports in the near term resulting from the situation. Aviation safety incidents have the potential to cause follow-on disruption to airport security operations. Review internal and external mechanisms for aviation safety reporting. Any revisions to processes should account for air and ground safety occurrence provisions as part of a wider aviation risk management strategy to protect aircraft, passengers and crew. In addition, ensure emergency response and communications plans are up to date to enhance continuity during times of crisis. (Source: Osprey)
31 Oct 19. Statement of the NATO-Ukraine Commission.
- The NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC) met in Kyiv today in the presence of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and members of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to discuss the security situation in and around Ukraine, the reform process within the country, as well as progress in the NATO-Ukraine partnership. Our meeting took place as part of the visit of the North Atlantic Council to Ukraine. The North Atlantic Council also met with members of the Verkhovna Rada as well as civil society. This visit is a strong demonstration of NATO’s unwavering support to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.
- Today we discussed the security situation in eastern Ukraine, which continues to be of major concern. Allies commended President Zelenskyy on his commitment to a peaceful resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. We reaffirmed our support to the settlement of the conflict by diplomatic means in accordance with the Minsk Agreements, which need to be fully implemented by all parties; Russia, as a signatory to the Minsk Agreements bears significant responsibility in this regard. We support the efforts of the Normandy format, the Trilateral Contact Group and the OSCE. We urge Russia to cease all political, financial and military support to militant groups and to stop intervening militarily in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and to withdraw troops, equipment, and mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine, and to return to the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination. We stress the importance of the safety and full and unhindered access for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, up to and including the Russia-Ukraine border.
- We welcome the disengagement of forces around Stanytsia Luhanska and support efforts to implement disengagement in other designated areas, as part of an effort to fully implement the Minsk Agreements. Allies welcome Ukraine’s continuous commitment to the JIT investigation into the downing of flight MH17. It remains important to establish truth, accountability and justice for the downing of flight MH17, in line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2166.
- We strongly condemn and will not recognise Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea. Crimea is the territory of Ukraine. We call on Russia to return control of Crimea to Ukraine. We condemn Russia’s ongoing and wide-ranging military build-up in Crimea, which is part of the larger pattern of Russian aggressive actions in the region. Allies are deeply concerned by the human rights abuses and violations being carried out by the Russian de-facto authorities in Crimea against all Ukrainians, including the Crimean Tatars, and members of other local communities. We call on Russia to grant international monitoring organisations access to Crimea. NATO’s response to address Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine has been alongside and in support of an overall international effort, which has included sanctions. There can be no “business as usual” until there is a clear, constructive change in Russia’s actions that demonstrates compliance with international law and its international obligations and responsibilities.
- We welcome the fact that, as part of a simultaneous release of prisoners agreed by Ukraine and Russia, the 24 Ukrainian servicemen and 11 other Ukrainian prisoners detained by Russia were able to return home last month. This is a step in the right direction. We call on Russia to return the captured vessels and to comply with its international commitments by ensuring unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov and allowing freedom of navigation. In line with UNGA Resolution 73/263 of 22 December 2018, we call on Russia to immediately release and allow the return to Ukraine, without preconditions, of Ukrainian citizens who were unlawfully detained and judged without regard for the requirement of international law, as well as those transferred or deported across internationally recognized borders from Crimea to the Russian Federation.
- Allies commended Ukraine for successfully conducting peaceful and competitive elections in 2019 which reflect the will of the Ukrainian people. Ukrainian voters provided the new government and Parliament a further opportunity to continue the wide-ranging reforms, which should be fully in line with Ukraine’s international obligations and commitments. The success of these reforms, including combatting corruption, will be crucial in laying the groundwork for a prosperous and peaceful Ukraine firmly anchored among European democracies committed to common values, respect for human rights, minorities and the rule of law. In this regard, Allies encourage Ukraine to make the best use of the tools available under the NATO-Ukraine Commission, in particular the Annual National Programme to reach its objective of implementing NATO principles and standards. With regard to the Law on Education adopted by the Verkhovna Rada in September 2017, Allies urge Ukraine to fully implement the recommendations and conclusions of the Venice Commission. Ukraine is committed to doing so.
- Allies welcome achievements already made and look forward to further progress with the reform of Ukraine’s security and defence sector, including the implementation of the 2018 Law on National Security. Its provisions on civilian control and democratic oversight over the security and defence sector are a key Euro-Atlantic norm. Allies called on Ukraine to adopt and implement secondary legislation stemming from the Law on National Security, including on the Security Service of Ukraine, on a new parliamentary oversight committee, intelligence, state secrets and defence procurement. Allies remain committed to providing continued support to Ukraine’s reform agenda in the security and defence sector, including through the Comprehensive Assistance Package (CAP), so that it can better provide for its own security. Today, we endorsed the third Review of the CAP, further aligning it to reform goals aimed at implementing Euro-Atlantic principles, best practices and standards and to enhance interoperability with NATO. In this regard, Allied contributions to NATO Trust Funds play an important role.
- The Black Sea region is of strategic importance to the Alliance and its partners. Allies welcome the developing dialogue and cooperation between NATO and Ukraine on security in the Black Sea region. In line with the April 2019 decision of the NATO Foreign Ministers, Allies have enhanced their practical support to Ukraine, including cooperation with its Navy, situational awareness, port visits, exercises and sharing of information. Yesterday, we met with NATO Standing Naval Forces conducting a port visit to Odesa and with members of Ukraine’s Military and Maritime Academies, two institutions that benefit from NATO’s support. Allies will continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to strengthen its resilience against hybrid threats, including through intensifying activities under the NATO-Ukraine Platform on Countering Hybrid Warfare.
- Allies highly value Ukraine’s significant contributions to Allied operations, the NATO Response Force, and NATO exercises. We welcome these efforts, which demonstrate Ukraine’s commitment and capability to contribute to Euro-Atlantic security. Those contributions also increase our interoperability. Allies acknowledge Ukraine’s interest in the enhanced opportunities within the Partnership Interoperability Initiative and will consider this in view of the decisions taken at the Wales, Warsaw and Brussels Summits.
- In light of Ukraine’s restated aspirations for NATO membership, we stand by our decisions taken at the Bucharest Summit and subsequent Summits. We will work together to enhance and adapt our distinctive partnership under the NATO-Ukraine Commission, which will contribute to building a stable, peaceful and undivided Europe. An independent, sovereign and stable Ukraine, firmly committed to democracy, and the rule of law, is key for Euro-Atlantic security.
- Allies expressed their appreciation for the warm hospitality by Ukraine during the visit.
30 Oct 19. Central Command Chief Gives Details on Baghdadi Raid. The mission to capture or kill ISIS founder and leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was exquisitely planned and executed, the commander of U.S. Central Command said.
Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie briefed Pentagon reporters today on the Oct. 26 raid in northwestern Syria that resulted in Baghdadi’s death. Pentagon officials also released videos of the raid.
McKenzie said planning for the raid began much earlier. He said Baghdadi was a priority target for Centcom, and as a result, was the subject of an intense effort to bring him to justice.
“As it became clear that we had gained clear and actionable intelligence on his hideout, we developed a plan designed to capture or kill him and started preparing a special operations team for the mission,” he said.
McKenzie said he briefed Defense Department leaders on the intelligence and the plan on Oct. 25. With the approval of Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he briefed President Donald J. Trump on all aspects of the plan, including the risks involved in its execution.
The special operations team was staged in Syria and launched against an isolated compound in Idlib province about 4 miles from the Turkish border. “We assess that he was hiding in Idlib province to avoid the intense pressure that had been put on ISIS in other areas of Syria,” the general said.
The team was inserted by helicopter and protected by attack choppers, unmanned strike aircraft and fourth- and fifth-generation fighters, McKenzie said. “I would also note that the plan accounted for the assumption that we would find multiple children at the objective,” he added.
The president approved the plan, and Centcom deconflicted operations in the area with Turkey and Russia, McKenzie said.
As the U.S. aircraft arrived at the compound, the choppers started receiving fire from fighters on the ground. McKenzie said he believes those groups were not ISIS members. Still, he said, they demonstrated hostile intent against U.S. forces and were killed by two airstrikes from supporting helicopters.
The assault force surrounded the compound and urged those inside to surrender peacefully. “Those who came out of the building were checked for weapons and explosives and moved away,” McKenzie said. “U.S. forces detained and later released the noncombatants. The group was treated humanely at all times, and included 11 children.”
Five ISIS members inside the compound presented a threat to the force, the general said. “They did not respond to commands in Arabic to surrender,” he added, “and they continued to threaten the force. They were engaged by the raid force and killed: four women and one man.”
U.S. forces located Baghdadi in a tunnel inside the compound. When capture was imminent, the terrorist detonated a bomb he was wearing, killing himself and two children.
“After Baghdadi’s murder/suicide, the assault force cleared debris from the tunnel and secured Baghdadi’s remains for DNA verification,” McKenzie said, adding that the remains were positively identified. The body was appropriately buried at sea, in accordance with the law of armed conflict, he said.
Aircraft destroyed the compound so it can’t be used as a shrine to the murderer, the general told reporters. “It looks like a parking lot with big potholes,” McKenzie said. (Source: US DoD)
29 Oct 19. Brazil, Saudi Arabia to increase defence industrial links. Brazil and Saudi Arabia are set to sign a series of political and economic agreements to bolster links, including defence co-operation and investment, Brazil’s foreign minister Ernesto Araújo told the Arab News website. In an interview published on 29 October, Araújo said that the two countries were planning to sign a raft of agreements on co-operation in science, technology, and innovation; cultural co-operation; visas; sports; finance; and defence during a visit to the Kingdom by Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro.
Araújo told the outlet that the visit would “contribute to the expansion of Saudi investments in Brazil, in sectors such as infrastructure, defence, innovation, energy, and agribusiness, as well as encourage Saudi participation in Brazilian concessions and privatization programs.” (Source: IHS Jane’s)
27 Oct 19. China’s Very Own B-2 Bomber? Meet the H-20 Stealth Bomber. Coming in the 2020s? In October 2018, Chinese media announced that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) would publicly unveil its new H-20 stealth bomber during a parade celebrating the air arm’s seventieth anniversary in 2019. Prior news of the H-20’s development had been teased using techniques pioneered by viral marketing campaigns for Hollywood movies. For example, the Xi’an Aviation Industrial Corporation released a promotional video in May 2018 pointedly imitating Northrop Grumman’s own Superbowl ad for the B-21 stealth bomber, portraying a shrouded flying wing bomber in its final seconds. Later, the silhouette of a possible new bomber appeared at a PLAAF gala. This comes only two years after PLAAF Gen. Ma Xiaotian formally revealed the Hong-20’s existence.
If the H-20 does have the range and passable stealth characteristics attributed to it, it could alter the strategic calculus between the United States and China by exposing U.S. bases and fleets across the Pacific to surprise air attacks.
Only three countries have both the imperative and the resources to develop huge strategic bombers that can strike targets across the globe: the United States, Russia and China. Strategic bombers make sense for China because Beijing perceives dominance of the western half of the Pacific Ocean as essential for its security due to its history of maritime invasion, and the challenge posed by the United States in particular. The two superpowers are separated by five to six thousand miles of ocean—and the United States has spent the last century developing a network of island territories such as Guam, foreign military bases in East Asia and super-carriers with which it can project air and sea power across that span.
Xi’an Aviation, the H-20’s manufacturer, also builds China’s H-6 strategic jet bombers, a knockoff the 1950s-era Soviet Tu-16 Badger which has recently been upgraded with modern avionics, aerial refueling capability and cruise missiles in the later H-6K and H-6J models. Beijing could easily have produced a successor in a similar vein, basically a giant four-engine airliner-sized cargo plane loaded with fuel and long-range missiles that’s never intended to get close enough for adversaries to shoot back.
Alternately, analyst Andreas Rupprecht reported that China considered developing a late-Cold War style supersonic bomber akin to the U.S. B-1 or Russian Tu-160 called the JH-XX. This would have lugged huge bombloads at high speed and low altitude, while exhibiting partial stealth characteristics for a marginal improvement in survivability. However, such an approach was already considered excessively vulnerable to modern fighters and air defense by the late twentieth century. A Chinese magazine cover sported a concept image of the JH-XX in 2013, but the project appears to have been set aside for now.
Instead, in the PLAAF elected to pursue a more ambitious approach: a slower but far stealthier flying wing like the U.S. B-2 and forthcoming B-21 Raider. A particular advantage of large flying wings is they are less susceptible to detection by low-bandwidth radar, such as those on the Navy’s E-2 Hawkeye radar planes, which are effective at detecting the approach of smaller stealth fighters.
While China’s development of stealth aircraft technology in the J-20 and J-31 stealth fighter was an obvious prerequisite for the H-20 project, so apparently was Xi’an’s development of the hulking Y-20 ‘Chubby Girl’ cargo plane, which established the company’s capability to build large, long-range aircraft using modern computer-aided design and manufacturing techniques—precision technology essential for mass producing the exterior surfaces of stealth aircraft.
According to a study by Rick Joe at The Diplomat, Chinese publications began speculating about the H-20 in the early 2010s. Postulated characteristics include four non-afterburning WS-10A Taihang turbofans sunk into the top of the wing surface with S-shaped saw-toothed inlets for stealth. It’s worth noting that the WS-10 has been plagued by major problems, but that hasn’t stopped China from manufacturing fighters using WS-10s, with predictably troubled results.
The new strategic bomber is expected to have a maximum un-refueled combat radius exceeding 5,000 miles and payload between the H-6’s ten tons and the B-2’s twenty-three tons. This is because the H-20 is reportedly designed to strike targets beyond the “second island ring” (which includes U.S. bases in Japan, Guam, the Philippines, etc.) from bases on mainland China. The third island chain extends to Hawaii and coastal Australia.
In a U.S.-China conflict, the best method for neutralizing U.S. air power would be to destroy it on the ground (or carrier deck), especially in the opening hours of a war. While ballistic missiles and H-6 bombers can already contribute to this with long-range missiles, these are susceptible to detection and interception given adequate forewarning. A stealth bomber could approach much closer to carrier task forces and air bases before releasing its weapons, giving defenses too little time to react. An initial strike might in fact focus on air defense radars, “opening the breach” for a follow up wave of less stealthy attacks.
The H-20 will also likely be capable of carrying nuclear weapons, finally giving China a full triad of nuclear-capable submarines, ballistic missiles and bombers. Though the H-6 was China’s original nuclear bomber, these are no longer configured for nuclear strike, though that could change if air-launched nuclear-tipped cruise or ballistic missile are devised. Beijing is nervous that the United States’ limited ballistic missile defense capabilities might eventually become adequate for countering China’s small ICBM and SLBM arsenal. The addition of a stealth bomber would contribute to China’s nuclear deterrence by adding a new, difficult-to-stop vector of nuclear attack that the U.S. defenses aren’t designed to protect against.
Some Chinese publications also argue that the H-20 will do double-duty as a networked reconnaissance and command & control platform similar to U.S. F-35 stealth fighters. This would make sense, as China has developed a diverse arsenal of long-range air-, ground- and sea-launched missiles, but doesn’t necessarily have a robust reconnaissance network to form a kill-chain cueing these missiles to distant targets. Theoretically, an H-20 could rove ahead, spying the position of opposing sea-based assets using a low-probability-of-intercept AESA radar, and fuse that information to a firing platform hundreds or even thousands of miles away. The H-20 could also be used for electronic warfare or to deploy specialized directed energy.
The crescendo of publicity surrounding the H-20 indicates the PLAAF believes the plane will soon be ready enough to show to the public—and international audiences. Once revealed, analysts will pour over the aircraft’s geometry to estimate just how the stealthy it really is, looking for radar-reflective Achilles’ heels such as exposed engine inlets and indiscrete tail stabilizers. However, external analysis cannot provide a full assessment, because the quality of the radar-absorbent materials applied to surfaces, and the finesse of the manufacturing (avoiding seams, protruding screws, etc.) has a major impact on radar cross-section.
It is worth bearing in mind, however, that an H-20 seeking to slip through the gauntlet of long-range search radars scattered across the Pacific to launch CJ-10K cruise missiles with a range of over nine hundred miles would not require the same degree of stealth as an F-35 intended to penetrate more densely defended airspace and launch small diameter bombs with a range of 70 miles.
Analysts forecast the H-20’s first flight in the early 2020s, with production possibly beginning around 2025. If the H-20 is judged to be of credible design, the Pentagon in turn will have to factor the strategic implications of China’s stealth capabilities, and will likely seek to field implement counter-stealth technologies which formerly have been mostly vaunted by Russia and China. The publicity which the often-secretive Chinese government is according the H-20 also indicates Beijing’s hope the bomber will serve as a strategic deterrent to foreign adversaries—even before its first flight. (Source: News Now/https://nationalinterest.org)