At a time when China’s Xian H-20 stealth bombers continue to spark speculation, reports of another mysterious bomber – tentatively known as the JH-XX – have left military analysts confused.
There have been several reports of the exciting H-20 bomber. Some reports have suggested that the warplane may have the capability to be equipped with either conventional or nuclear missiles.
The H-20 has been speculated to have a payload of over 45 tonnes and a maximum take-off weight of at least 200 tonnes. It has also been suggested that this bomber could fly at subsonic speeds and could also be equipped with up to four hypersonic stealth cruise missiles.
Fire computer generated images of the H-20 published by the monthly magazine ‘Modern Weaponry’ in 2021 suggested that the aircraft has a weapon compartment, two adjustable tail wings, an airborne radar in front and two stealth air intakes on both sides. These were all shown fully covered by a dark gray radar absorbing material.
Based on the limited information on the H-20, it appears that stealth and range have been given importance over speed, likely to allow the aircraft to go on long-range attack missions.
This aircraft, which is still largely shrouded in mystery, would have US bases in Guam, Japan and the Philippines within its reach. These bases form part of the “second island ring” of Washington’s Island Chain Strategy, first devised by US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles during the Korean War.
In addition to this threat is another mysterious underdevelopment bomber, JH-XX.
The concept of JH-XX stealth bombers were first leaked online around 2013, at what appeared to be some sort of space convention. Later, a Chinese space magazine published a concept image of the plane.
This particular image showed a conventional design with swept wings. Such blades are optimized for higher speeds. However, this would mean that the JH-XX is likely to have a smaller range than the H-20.
It appears that JH-XX has a mission similar to that of the conceptual FB-22 fighter bomber sent to the US Air Force by Lockheed Martin. The FB-22 was a proposed stealth bomber marketed to the USAF, and its design was derived from the F-22 Raptor.
Some images of the JH-XX suggest that it bears greater resemblance to the Northrop Grumman’s FB-23 concept.
In fact, the design of the model that Shenyang, the company claimed to be behind the JH-XX, seems to be largely based on the proposed follow-up to the defunct YF-23 program, a single-seater, two-engine stealth fighter technology demonstrator from Northrop.
Older reports have mentioned that the JH-XX model has a main-ventral stall with separate side-mounted compartments, apparently to carry air-to-air missiles. The aircraft, a fifth generation, is expected to be extremely manoeuvrable and supersonic, with the ability to bomb strategically important regional targets in the eastern and southern China seas.
It would also be fast enough to intercept enemy aircraft. There is a chance that JH-XX could also pose a threat to assets in the northeastern part of China in the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan.
ONE 2019 report of the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) referred very specifically to the ability of this aircraft to use long-range air-to-air missiles and precision-guided ammunition. In terms of armament, it is not yet known whether the aircraft can carry nuclear weapons or not.
The DIA’s report also suggested that the maximum take – off weight of the aircraft could be between 60 and 100 tonnes with an approximate length of about 30 meters. As mentioned earlier, the JH-XX is likely to have a shorter combat radius than the H-20, well suited to its more local, regional objectives and missions.
However, this range would still be enough to target not only US bases in the second island chain, but also military facilities in India, the South China Sea and beyond.
With a focus on speed and stealth, the little fighter bomber would also have added benefits in terms of exit rates and in the form of successful penetration through an enemy’s integrated air defense network.
The weight of the aircraft’s stealth properties would allow the fighter bomber to fly in disputed airspace while avoiding air defense systems located there.
The JH-XX would be suitable for multi-role operations, including supporting long-range air-to-air missions. If fully developed, this could fly protect various rocks and reefs that Beijing militarizes in the eastern and southern China seas. It could also carry out a preparatory bombing of Taiwan before an actual invasion.