China’s little-known H-20 stealth bomber not a concern for US: Pentagon official
China’s latest stealth bomber is “nowhere near” compatible with US platforms and is “not really” a concern for Washington, according to a Pentagon intelligence official, who cited engineering design challenges in the Chinese programme.

The official, who spoke to the online Breaking Defence news portal on condition of anonymity, said the Xian H-20’s capabilities would not be able to keep up with its US counterparts.

“The thing with the H-20 is when you actually look at the system design, it’s probably nowhere near as good as US LO [low observable] platforms, particularly more advanced ones that we have coming down,” the official said in the article published on Monday.

“They’ve run into a lot of engineering design challenges, in terms of how do you actually make that system capability function in a similar way to, like, a B-2 or a B-21,” the official added.

Little is known about the development programme, first revealed in 2016, of China’s first strategic bomber, which has been referred to as Beijing’s answer to Northrup Grumman’s B-2 Spirit or its new B-21 Raider, as well as other US platforms.

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According to the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress in 2021, the H-20 is likely to have a range of at least 8,500km (5,280 miles), with a payload of at least 10 tonnes and the capability to employ conventional and nuclear weapons.

In recent years, computer-generated designs and models of the bomber have circulated online and in magazines run by Chinese defence contractors. These have featured a similar flying wing design to the B-2 and B-21.

The designs also reveal a weapons bay, two adjustable tail wings, an airborne radar at the front of the H-20 and two stealth air intakes on each side.

Wang Wei, deputy commander of the PLA Air Force, told the “two sessions” political gathering in March that the H-20’s official public announcement would take place “soon”. He also said there were neither technical difficulties nor any intention for comparisons with the US.

According to the Breaking Defence article, the defence intelligence official noted that China may choose to unveil the H-20 “just because they want to show that they’re a great military power”.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean it actually delivers them the kind of capability that they would need or at the quantity that they would need.”

However, the official said Washington is not ruling out a scenario where Beijing’s military capabilities are, in fact, highly effective in any outbreak of war between the US and China.

China is serious about preparing all levels of society for a “protracted” conflict with the US, according to the official, who emphasised that Beijing is purposefully equipping the PLA, targeting US military weaknesses and posing as a “pacing challenge”.

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