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China's Two New Stealth Bombers Are Bad News For America

Mark Episkopos

Key point: China’s two next-generation fighters appear to be separated by years of R&D work.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is developing not one, but two stealth bombers, according to a Defense Intelligence Agency report published earlier this year. A steady stream of details has emerged concerning one of them-- the H-20 is a long-distance flying wing stealth bomber, with a robust electronic countermeasures (ECM) package and sensor fusion integration. Nevertheless, Chinese defense sources remain tight-lipped concerning the PLAAF’s second project.

Here is everything we know about the PLAAF’s mysterious JH-XX bomber.

Described by the DIA report as a “fighter-bomber,”  the JH-XX is the tactical counterpart to the H-20 strategic bomber. It is widely speculated that the JH-XX is the early concept bomber depicted on the May 2018 cover of the prolific Chinese defense magazine “Aerospace Knowledge,” brought to the attention of western audiences by China Defense Blog. If true, these early images depict a conventionally designed, supermaneuverable, supersonic bomber with an internal weapons bay. Several aspects of the JH-XX’s design, including the jagged air intakes and the way the twin-engine nozzles are embedded in the tail, suggesting a decent measure engineering attention paid to stealth performance.

But whereas stealth is a top design priority for the H-20, the JH-XX seeks to balance low-detectability features against speed and limited dogfighting abilities; to that end, the JH-XX will carry anti-air missiles. The  PL-15, a Chinese long-range anti-air missile with a host of best-in-class features, is an ideal candidate for this type of aircraft. The JH-XX will also likely boast a more modest combat radius of around of up to 2,000 kilometers, as opposed to the H-20’s 5,000 km, and is almost certainly not in the same weight or payload class as the H-20.

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