March 21, 2007:
The Chinese Navy (the PLAN, or
Peoples Liberation Army Navy) has 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
China is trying to 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
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.
The JH7 entered service a few years ago, after two
decades of development. About 150 are in service. Mass production was delayed
because the aircraft was designed to use a British engine. China could not get
enough of these engines, and has not been able to produce a sufficient quantity
of their own WS-9 engines.
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.