December 12, 2009:
China continues adapting its ground launched cruise missiles to operate from aircraft. The latest missile to get this treatment is the DH-10. This weapon is similar to early U.S. cruise missiles, and has a range of 1,500-3,000 kilometers and uses GPS, along with terrain mapping. The DH-10 was first shown publicly in the recent 60th anniversary (of the communists taking control of China) on October 1st.) The aircraft carried version is called the CJ-10. This is believed to be based on some American cruise missile technology.
Earlier, China had taken the Russian Kh-31 air-to-ground missile (which they bought 200 of in the 1990s), and improved the design. The resulting YJ-91 comes in both anti-radiation (ARM) missiles for attacking radars, and anti-ship versions. The YJ-91 is small (.6 ton) compared to its predecessor, the C201, a three ton beast that is basically a small, pilotless, jet aircraft. For all that bulk, the C201 only has a range of about 100 kilometers. But China still likes this design because, launched from the ground, the sheer weight and bulk of the, plus the explosives in the warhead, can do a lot of damage.
While China has also developed anti-ship missiles similar to the U.S. Harpoon and French Exocet. But these are only effective on a modern aircraft that can maneuver and are equipped with electronic countermeasures to enable it to get close enough to a well defended target (like a U.S. Navy task force.) China, however, has both old and new aircraft assigned to its naval aviation force.
Two years ago, the Chinese Navy (the PLAN, or Peoples Liberation Army Navy) reorganized its aviation component, giving each of the three fleets a force of two fighter-bomber divisions (equipped with JH-7As) and one division of missile carrying bombers (H-6Ms). Full strength air divisions have about 70-90 aircraft, but the PLAN air divisions are under strength by a third or more. New JH-7s and H-6s are being built, at a rate of about fifty aircraft a year, to bring the divisions up to strength, and replace training losses.
All this is so that China can create an air attack capability against U.S. warships. This is difficult, because American warships possess some of the most formidable air defenses on the planet.
The H-6 is a Chinese copy of the Russian Tu-16, which is a 1950s era design that has been upgraded considerably by the Chinese. The H6 is a large aircraft, with a max weight of 79 tons and max payload of nine tons. It has a crew of four and an operating range of about 600 kilometers. This aircraft is used to carry the CJ-10 and C201.
The JH-7 is a 27 ton, twin engine aircraft, with a 40 foot wingspan. However, it is underpowered, and only has a five ton bomb load. The navy would use it mainly for carrying anti-ship missiles. The aircraft has an operational radius of about 900 kilometers, enabling it to contribute to an attack on Taiwan, or a blockade of the islands ports. This aircraft can carry the smaller, and shorter range, anti-ship missiles. The JH7 entered service a few years ago, after two decades of development. About 150 are in service. Mass production was delayed because of engine problems.
The big mystery with both of these aircraft is their electronics. The Chinese are believed to have invested a lot of effort in stealing data American military electronics. This would, in theory, give the Chinese the ability to defeat American electronics countermeasures equipment, and more easily find U.S. warships. There's no evidence the Chinese have actually equipped their naval bombers with such electronics, but if the Chinese had such capabilities, they would want to keep them secret. The Chinese are stealing an enormous amount of data on U.S. military equipment, and this is what you use that type of material for.