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The H-20: The last member of the "20 family," completing the final piece of China's new strategic nuclear triad.


By ahongPublished about a month ago 4 min read

The H-20 is seen as a thirst-quenching solution for China's quest for next-generation strategic power, completing the new strategic nuclear triad puzzle.

The last public news about the H-20 dates back to March this year, when according to a report by the Global Times, during the "Two Sessions," a Hong Kong reporter asked the political commissar of the Chinese Air Force about the H-20 outside the venue. The commissar indicated that the H-20 would make an appearance soon, but the specific timing was still unclear.

Rumors about the H-20 have been circulating for years, yet this strategic bomber has not been publicly unveiled to date. Despite the continuous whispers, the H-20 has always been in a state of "hearing the stairs creak but not seeing anyone come down," leaving the outside world without a fixed conclusion about its specific form, with everything remaining speculative.

However, it is widely acknowledged that the H-20 does exist and is currently in the development phase. Although it's "only heard on the stairs," this is a common state of affairs. Unlike the U.S., China has always been low-key and mysterious in the development of its weaponry.

The Taiwan China Times, when discussing the H-20, stated: "Learning from the successful experiences of adversaries" has always been a common approach in mainland China's military development field. Therefore, from the inception of the H-20 project, the outside world has speculated that it would adopt a "flying wing" layout similar to the American "B-2 Spirit" stealth bomber, and this speculation has been gradually confirmed. For instance, in October 2018, at a joint evening party of the People's Liberation Army Air Force, a peculiar aircraft silhouette appeared in the background logo, featuring a tailless aircraft design with wingtip sails.

Although the H-20 is likely to adopt an advanced "flying wing" design, the details seem to have never been finalized. Various versions of the H-20's appearance have emerged in the news, with one model featuring a low-angle double vertical tail and another model that has removed the double vertical tail. According to the general view, the public unveiling of the H-20 might have been in October 2020, when a promotional film titled "Great Power Takeoff" released by China's aviation industry ended with a white cloth covering a silhouette that was suspected to be the H-20.

On June 15th, the Hong Kong South China Morning Post published an analysis article about the H-20, stating that despite various signs indicating that China's next-generation stealth bomber might be ready soon, the relevant timetable remains uncertain, regardless of how urgently the People's Liberation Army needs it or how much attention the outside world pays to it.

The South China Morning Post believes that the H-20 may already be ready. For a long time, China's strategic bomber has been limited to the H-6, which has been in service for about 70 years. Despite decades of significant upgrades and modifications, it has become obviously outdated and unable to cope with the new era of combat environments, and its operational performance cannot be compared with the new bombers of the U.S. and Russia, highlighting a backward predicament. Against this backdrop, the H-20 was born.

Although the specific specifications of the H-20 have not been made public, the U.S. military, which has always been concerned about China's military development, pointed out in its annual report to Congress in 2021 that its range can reach at least 8,500 kilometers, the bomb load is at least 10 tons, and it can carry both conventional and nuclear weapons. The report also mentioned that it might also carry hypersonic weapons. The H-20's range is sufficient for intercontinental attacks, and with aerial refueling support, it could even reach the U.S. West Coast. Strategically, the H-20 will enable the Chinese Air Force to upgrade to a global offensive force.

The South China Morning Post also pointed out that the H-20 is not only the last piece of the puzzle for the Chinese Air Force's "20 family" series but also the final piece to complete China's current "strategic nuclear triad." As we all know, the "triple threat" of nuclear strikes consists of land-based, sea-based, and air-based levels, which is the "standard configuration" of world powers. For China, the strategic bomber may be the weakest corner of China's strategic nuclear triad, as the H-6 is likely the least advanced strategic bomber in service worldwide.

The "Great Power Takeoff" promotional film once featured a figure covered with a white cloth at the end.

"Ordnance Industry Science and Technology" once analyzed that this platform with decades of history can be easily detected and attacked by modern air defense systems, and it cannot reach the target without being intercepted in actual combat. However, the flying wing design and stealth coating of the H-20 can provide strong penetration power. It is expected to enable China to achieve a strategic breakthrough and greatly expand its strategic space.

Therefore, the South China Morning Post believes that the H-20 will be the last piece of the mainland's new "triple threat," solving China's practical needs for an advanced bomber.

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About the Creator


I'm Ahong, a writer painting China's stories for the world. Dive into tales that blend tradition with the contemporary, right from the heart of China.

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    ahongWritten by ahong

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