A new recruitment video for the Chinese Air Force sheds light on the possible appearance of its future H-20 stealth bomber. What stands out most in these images is the fact that it is the first official presentation of this new aircraft, says the American journalist Joseph Trevithick.
The recording was first released on January 5 and, according to Trevithick, appears to be legitimate as a notice below it reads: “CCTV [China Central Television] which is funded in whole or in part by the Chinese government,” notes the author of the article published on The Drive portal.
Why does the work generate so much interest?
In this video titled Dream of Youth, you can see how a young Chinese man joins the country’s Air Force to serve as a fighter pilot. The ad also includes a mix of real images of several Chinese fighter jets and focuses mostly on fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter.
However, he is not the main star of the film, but an aircraft in a flying wing configuration that appears at the end of the recording. It is located in a futuristic computer-created hangar and is covered in a sheet. Although the model under the cloth cannot be seen completely, the recording was mounted so that viewers could make out the front of the plane reflecting off the glass of another pilot’s helmet.
In his article, Trevithick claims that it is the H-20 that appears at the end of the video. Details about its design remain unknows, but experts believe it is built on this same platform: flying wing.
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What is seen from the front of the aircraft bears clear similarities to the shape of the US B-2 and B-21 bombers. The contours that can be distinguished, when the aircraft is still covered by the sheet, also show a cockpit flanked by two air intakes, reminiscent of those two designs developed by the American company Northrop Grumman, says the author of the article.
“China has certainly investigated the design of the B-2 very closely as part of various projects in the past. Photos of what appears to be a Chinese version of the B-2 in a wind tunnel have been circulating online,” Trevithick recalls.
Regardless of its final design, which could undoubtedly change in the future, the novelty is that it is the first official presentation of the H-20, says the journalist. The video comes after several reports were published in the media that China could give some clues about the possible configuration of this aircraft.
What is known about the possible capabilities of the new aircraft?
Existing reports suggest that the H-20 could carry 10 tons of ammunition and have a maximum range without refuelling of about 8,000 kilometers, substantially greater than any version of the H-6 bomber. Its combat range will be especially long if it also carries long-range and land-attack cruise missiles. The aircraft would also be capable of carrying conventional long-range weapons, penetrating deeper into enemy territory and striking various critical targets, including air defense command and control posts, as well as airfields and other important infrastructure.
This type of capability would present significant new challenges for China’s rivals, such as the US and India, throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The H-20 could also serve as a springboard for a robust new component of China’s nuclear deterrent force, the journalist warns.
Putting this type of aircraft into service would also be in line with the wide range of other modernization and high-tech initiatives. Some of these are related to the development of stealth UAVs, increasingly powerful drone swarms, hypersonic and anti-satellite weapons, electromagnetic railguns, and other weapons.
“Whatever happens, although we have no way of knowing if this video indicates that the time when the real H-20 is unveiled is approaching (…) it is another clue that indicates that in the work of that aircraft significant progress is being made,” emphasizes the journalist.
This conclusion is quite interesting, especially since work on that aircraft dates back to at least the early 2000s. Furthermore, there were reports that China had largely frozen development of the basic design in 2011 to finish the construction and then increase production of the Y-20 military transport aircraft.