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Air Weapons: New Chinese Heavy Bomber Aimed At American Targets
   Next Article → WARPLANES: Finding The Sweet Spots

July 2, 2013: Over the last two years China has received at least fifteen of the latest model of the H6 bomber, the H6K. This model only entered service two years ago, after several years of development. The H6K uses more efficient Russian engines (D30KP2) that give it a range of about 3,500 kilometers. Electronics are state-of-the-art and include a more powerful radar. The fuselage of the bomber has been reinforced with lighter, stronger, composite materials. The rear facing 23mm autocannon has been replaced with electronic warfare equipment. The H6K can carry six of the two ton CJ-10A land-attack cruise missiles. These appear to have a range of up to 2,000 kilometers, as they are similar to the older Russian Kh-55 (that was armed with a nuclear warhead). The CJ-10A is sometimes described as a high-speed (2,500 kilometers an hour), solid fuel missile. But that type of missile is a short range (about 300 kilometers) system. The CJ-10A appears to be more of a copy of the American Tomahawk (using a much slower jet engine). The CJ-10A can carry a nuclear warhead but usually does not. Armed with these missiles the H6K can attack American bases on Okinawa and Guam with these cruise missiles.

There are about a hundred H6s in service (out of about 200 built). These are Chinese copies of the Russian Tu-16s (about 1,500 built). Although the Tu-16 design is over fifty years old, China has continued to rely on their H-6s as one of their principal bombers. The H6 is a 78 ton aircraft with a crew of four and two engines. Most models can carry nine tons of bombs and missiles, with the new H6K able to haul about 12 tons. Most H6s carry the CJ-10A and C201 missiles, as well as bombs. It does not appear that China is building a lot of H6Ks, perhaps no more than twenty. The Russians kept their Tu-16s in service until the early 1990s, but China kept improving their H6 copy. Thus the H-6K is a capable heavy bomber that will apparently be around for another decade or two.

Next Article → WARPLANES: Finding The Sweet Spots