With Drones Tracking Submarines South China Sea Is Indeed China’s Lake


China’s testing of underwater gliding drones in the South China Sea with real time data transmission technology could help pinpoint the location of foreign submarines. Photo: Handout

In its report “Why Beijing is speeding up underwater drone tests in the South China Sea” today, SCMP says, “China is testing large-scale deployment of underwater drones in the South China Sea with real-time data transmission technology, a breakthrough that could help reveal and track the location of foreign submarines.”

As sound much slower than radio wave is used in underwater communication, according to experts real-time underwater communication is very difficult if not impossible.

The US has also used group of gliding drones for submarine tracking but the drones have to come up to the surface to send the information it collects so that there is a time lag and discontinuity in the data collected from the drones.

Now, China is able to collect information from its group of drones real time, it is certainly a breakthrough in technology ahead of the US. US submarines will have nowhere to hide in the South China Sea, which will thus indeed become China’s lake.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2103941/why-beijing-speeding-underwater-drone-tests-south-china?utm_source=edm&utm_medium=edm&utm_content=20170726&utm_campaign=scmp_china&utm_source=SupChina&utm_campaign=772eae8a1b-20170726-342OrganTransplants&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_caef3ab334-772eae8a1b-164862477.


China backs joint energy development with Philippines in disputed sea


Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano (R) shakes hands with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines July 25, 2017. Photo: Erik De Castro

Manuel Mogato July 25, 2017 / 5:32 PM / 14 hours ago

MANILA (Reuters) – China’s foreign minister on Tuesday said he supported the idea of joint energy ventures with the Philippines in the disputed South China Sea, warning that unilateral action could cause problems and damage both sides.

Wang Yi, on a two-day visit to Manila, made the remarks after President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said a partner had been found to develop oil fields and exploration and exploitation would restart this year.

Duterte did not identify the partner. The energy ministry on July 12 said drilling at the Reed Bank, suspended in 2014, might resume before year-end, and the government was preparing to offer new blocks to investors in bidding in December.

“In waters where there are overlapping maritime rights and interests, if one party goes for unilateral development, and the other party takes the same action, that might complicate the situation at sea,” Wang told a news conference.

“That might lead to tension, and as the end result, nobody would be able to develop resources.”

The Philippines suspended energy activities while awaiting a ruling in a case by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague. When it ruled a year ago, the court invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of seaborne goods passes each year.

Beijing’s harassment of a survey ship of an Anglo-Filipino consortium in the Reed Bank in 2011 and its control of Scarborough Shoal in 2012 were among the reasons Manila filed the arbitration case, which China refuses to recognize.

The tribunal clarified Philippine sovereign rights to access offshore oil and gas its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), within which the Reed Bank is located.

The Philippines relies overwhelmingly on imports to fuel its fast-growing economy and needs to develop indigenous energy resources. Its main source of natural gas, the Malampaya field near the disputed waters, will be depleted within a decade.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the proposal to jointly develop resources in the disputed waters began in 1986, but the two countries “had not found wisdom to be able to push through to the next step”.

Experts say setting up such an arrangement would be extremely complex and politically sensitive. Both countries claim the oil and gas reserves, and a deal on sharing could be seen as legitimizing the other side’s claim, or giving away sovereign territory.

Wang also said China and Southeast Asian countries were firming up a maritime code of conduct framework, showing the world they could handle differences.

However, in a veiled reference to the United States, he said it was important for regional friends to stand up to outside interference.

“If there are still some non-regional forces in the region, they don’t want to see stability and want to stir up trouble, we need to stand together and say ‘No’ to them together,” he said.

In the latest confrontation, Chinese fighter jets intercepted a U.S. Navy surveillance plane over the East China Sea at the weekend, according to U.S. officials.

Editing by Martin Petty and Clarence Fernandez

Source: Reuters “China backs joint energy development with Philippines in disputed sea”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China urges halt to oil drilling in disputed South China Sea


BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Foreign Ministry has urged a halt to oil drilling in a disputed part of the South China Sea, where Spanish oil company Repsol had been operating in cooperation with Vietnam.

Drilling began in mid-June in Vietnam’s Block 136/3, which is licensed to Vietnam’s state oil firm, Spain’s Repsol and Mubadala Development Co of the United Arab Emirates.

The block lies inside the U-shaped ‘nine-dash line’ that marks the vast area that China claims in the sea and overlaps what it says are its own oil concessions.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China had indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands, which China calls the Nansha islands, and jurisdiction over the relevant waters and seabed.

“China urges the relevant party to cease the relevant unilateral infringing activities and with practical actions safeguard the hard-earned positive situation in the South China Sea,” Lu said at a regular briefing, when asked if China had pressured Vietnam or the Spanish company to stop drilling.

He did not elaborate.

This week the BBC reported that Vietnam had halted drilling there after Chinese threats, but there was no independent confirmation and neither Vietnamese officials nor Repsol made any comment on the report.

Thomson Reuters data showed the drilling ship Deepsea Metro I was in the same position on Monday as it had been since drilling began on the block in the middle of June.

An Indonesian naval ship that passed there on Saturday reported that three coastguard vessels and two Vietnamese fishing boats were nearby and there was no sign of trouble.

The Norwegian drilling ship operator, Odfjell Drilling Ltd., did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

China’s naval build-up and its increasingly assertive stance over disputed territory in the South China Sea have unnerved its neighbors.

The United States has criticized China’s construction of islands and military facilities there, concerned they could be used to restrict free movement and extend Beijing’s strategic reach.

Reporting by Michael Martina in Beijing and Matthew Tostevin in Bangkok; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Source: Reuters “China urges halt to oil drilling in disputed South China Sea”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Exclusive: Sri Lanka’s cabinet ‘clears port deal’ with China firm after concerns addressed


Shihar Aneez July 25, 2017 / 3:30 PM / 10 hours ago

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Sri Lanka’s cabinet cleared a revised agreement for its Chinese-built southern port of Hambantota on Tuesday, the government said, after terms of the first pact sparked widespread public anger in the island nation.

The port, close to the world’s busiest shipping lanes, has been mired in controversy ever since state-run China Merchants Port Holdings, which built it for $1.5 billion, signed an agreement taking an 80 percent stake.

Under the new deal, which Reuters has examined, the Sri Lankan government has sought to limit China’s role to running commercial operations at the port while it has oversight of broader security.

Chinese control of Hambantota, which is part of its modern-day “Silk Route” across Asia and beyond, as well as a plan to acquire 15,000 acres (23 sq miles) to develop an industrial zone next door, had raised fears that it could also be used for Chinese naval vessels.

Sri Lankans demonstrated in the streets at the time, fearing loss of their land, while politicians said such large-scale transfer of land to the Chinese impinged on the country’s sovereignty.

Details of the new agreement have not yet been made public. But according to parts of the document seen by Reuters, two companies are being set up to split the operations of the port and allay concerns, in India mainly but also in Japan and the United States, that it won’t be used for military purposes.

China Merchants Port Holdings will take an 85 percent stake in Hambantota International Port Group that will run the port and its terminals, with the rest held by Sri Lanka Ports Authority. The company’s capital will be $794 million.

A second firm, Hambantota International Port Group Services Co, with capital of $606 million, will be set up to oversee security operations, with the Sri Lankans holding a 50.7 percent stake and the Chinese 49.3 percent, according to the document.

Ports Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said that several foreign missions had sought clarification from Colombo about whether the Chinese navy would be using Hambantota port as it steps up its presence in the Indian Ocean.

“We told China that we can’t allow the port for military use and that 100 percent responsibility of security matters should be with the Sri Lankan government.”

China has been building ports in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and smaller island nations in what military officials call a “String of Pearls” in the Indian Ocean, or a network of friendly ports where its warships can refuel.

Reducing Stake

China Merchants Port Holdings also agreed to reduce its stake in the Sri Lankan joint venture running the commercial operations of the port to 65 percent after 10 years, the document says.

“The cabinet approved the deal and now it needs parliament approval. We will send it for approval this week,” cabinet spokesman Dayasiri Jayasekera said.

He didn’t provide details. A Chinese embassy spokesman said it had no comment to make on the deal. A source close to the Chinese Embassy in Colombo said both sides had reached a compromise and that Sri Lanka’s concerns had been addressed.

“They emphasized that they wanted to maintain balanced relations with other countries. But the deal is still beneficial for China in terms of revenue,” the source said.

The latest agreement relates to the port while the pact for the industrial zone will be handled separately, Sri Lankan officials said.

The revised deal comes weeks after President Maithripala Sirisena reshuffled his cabinet, naming Samarasinghe to the ports ministry after his predecessor had strongly opposed a majority equity stake for the Chinese firm and raised a red flag over possible military use.

Two Sri Lankan sources familiar with the deal said the Sri Lankan Ports Authority would have the right to inspect ships entering Hambantota.

“Sri Lanka will have control over port activities including security, which various parties have raised concerns over earlier,” one source told Reuters. “The agreement clearly says no military ships will be allowed in the port.”

New Delhi in 2014 was alarmed when a Chinese submarine docked in Colombo, where another Chinese firm is building a $1.4 billion port city on reclaimed land.

India has long considered Sri Lanka, just off its southern coast, as within its sphere of influence and sought to push back against China’s expanding maritime presence. In May, Sri Lanka turned down a Chinese request to dock a submarine.

Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Nick Macfie

Source: Reuters “Exclusive: Sri Lanka’s cabinet ‘clears port deal’ with China firm after concerns addressed”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


US says progress with China on N.Korea UN sanctions, true test is Russia


U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley directs comments to the Russian delegation at the conclusion of a U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the recent ballistic missile launch by North Korea at U.N. headquarters in New York.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United States is making progress in talks with North Korean ally China on imposing new United Nations sanctions on Pyongyang over its latest missile test, but Russia’s engagement will be the “true test,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said on Tuesday.

The United States gave China a draft resolution nearly three weeks ago to impose stronger sanctions on North Korea over the July 4 missile launch. Haley had been aiming for a vote by the 15-member Security Council within weeks, senior diplomats said.

“We’re constantly in touch with China … Things are moving but it’s still too early to tell how far they’ll move,” Haley told reporters, adding that she was pleased with China’s initial response to the U.S. proposal because it showed “seriousness.”

“We know that China’s been sharing and negotiating with Russia, so as long as they are doing that, we’re going to continue to watch this closely to make sure it is a strong resolution,” she said.

China’s U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi told reporters: “We are making progress, it requires time, but we’re working very hard.”

Traditionally, the United States and China have negotiated sanctions on North Korea before formally involving other council members, though diplomats said Washington informally keeps Britain and France in the loop. Along with Russia, those five countries are veto-wielding Security Council members.

“The true test will be what (the Chinese) have worked out with Russia (and whether) Russia comes and tries to pull out of that,” said Haley.

The United States and Russia have waged rival campaigns at the Security Council over the type of ballistic missile fired by North Korea. Western powers have said it was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), while Russia said the missile fired was only medium-range.

Diplomats say China and Russia only view a long-range missile test or nuclear weapon test as a trigger for further possible U.N. sanctions.

“Everyone that we have dealt with acknowledges that it’s an ICBM. Whether they are willing to put it in writing or not is going to be the real question,” Haley said.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs and the Security Council has ratcheted up the measures in response to five nuclear weapons tests and two long-range missile launches.

President Donald Trump’s administration has been frustrated that China has not done more to rein in North Korea and senior officials have said Washington could impose new sanctions on Chinese firms doing business with Pyongyang.

When asked how long Washington was willing to negotiate with China at the United Nations before deciding to impose its own secondary sanctions, Haley said: “We’re making progress … We’re going to see what the situation is.”

“We want China and every other country to see it as serious and we’re going to keep moving forward that way,” she said.

China’s Ambassador to Washington Cui Tiankai said on Tuesday that Beijing objected to secondary sanctions. In June, the United States blacklisted two Chinese citizens and a shipping company for helping North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

“Such actions are unacceptable. They have severely impaired China-U.S. cooperation on the Korean nuclear issue, and give rise to more questions about the true intention of the U.S.,” he told the Institute for China-America Studies in Washington.

Additional reporting by David Brunstrom in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish

Source: Reuters “U.S. says progress with China on N.Korea U.N. sanctions, true test is Russia”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Chinese jets intercept U.S. surveillance plane: U.S. officials


FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Navy EP-3E Aries signals reconnaissance aircraft, escorted by an EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, performs a flyby over aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman in the Arabian Gulf April 24, 2016. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bobby J Siens/Handout/File Photo via REUTERS

Idrees Ali July 24, 2017 / 9:46 PM / 2 hours ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a U.S. Navy surveillance plane over the East China Sea at the weekend, with one jet coming within about 300 feet (91 meters) of the American aircraft, U.S. officials said on Monday.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said initial reports showed one of the Chinese J-10 aircraft came close enough to the U.S. EP-3 plane on Sunday to cause the American aircraft to change direction.

One of the officials said the Chinese jet was armed and that the interception happened 80 nautical miles (148 km) from the Chinese city of Qingdao.

The Pentagon said that the encounter between the aircraft was unsafe, but added that the vast majority of interactions were safe.

Incidents such as Sunday’s intercept are relatively common.

In May, two Chinese SU-30 aircraft intercepted a U.S. aircraft designed to detect radiation while it was flying in international air space over the East China Sea.

China closely monitors any U.S. military activity around its coastline.

In 2001, an intercept of a U.S. spy plane by a Chinese fighter jet resulted in a collision that killed the Chinese pilot and forced the American plane to make an emergency landing at a base on Hainan.

The 24 U.S. air crew members were held for 11 days until Washington apologized for the incident. That encounter soured U.S.-Chinese relations in the early days of President George W. Bush’s first term in office.

Separately, the Pentagon said the U.S. military would soon carry out another test of it’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

“These tests are done as a routine measure to ensure that the system is ready and… they are scheduled well in advance of any other real world geopolitical events going on,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters.

The director of the Missile Defense Agency, Lieutenant General Sam Greaves, said in a statement that a test would be carried out at the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska.

Last month the United States shot down a simulated, incoming intermediate-range ballistic missile similar to the ones being developed by countries like North Korea, in a test of the nation’s THAAD missile defenses.

The United States deployed THAAD to South Korea this year to guard against North Korea’s shorter-range missiles. That has drawn fierce criticism from China, which says the system’s powerful radar can probe deep into its territory.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Grant McCool and Andrew Hay

Source: Reuters “Chinese jets intercept U.S. surveillance plane: U.S. officials”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


The PLA Air Force’s “Silver-Bullet” Bomber Force


China’s existing H-6 bomber

By: Andreas Rupprecht July 21, 2017 05:48 PM

Although China is widely seen in the West as a major future opponent and rival in terms of global economics and political influence, its current force structure and its evolving joint operational doctrine is still largely consistent with a defensive orientation (Defense White Paper, May 25, 2015). However, China’s rising ambitions have led to dramatic reforms in recent years, which mean for the first time in its history, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) will shift its focus from primarily territorial air defense to the ability to conduct offensive and defensive operations as well. [1] Most attention has focused on the introduction of new modern multirole combat fighters (J-10B/C, J-15 and J-16) and the development of next generation aircraft (J-20 and FC-31 stealth aircraft, Y-20 indigenous transport aircraft).

China has strengthened its air and naval power projection capabilities dramatically in the past 10 years, but, in general, the PLAAF has still a defensive composition. A majority of its aircraft are fighters and only a very small percentage are offensive or multirole-capable types. Specifically, compared to the other services, the PLAAF still lacks a real ability to project power far from its borders—its strategic airlift, aerial refueling and modern strategic bombers all lag behind in development. China’s small bomber fleet consists of three Bomber Divisions (8th, 10th and 36th) with six Regiments operating a variety of H-6 bomber variants. The H-6 itself is a venerable aircraft derived from the Soviet-era Tu-16, which was first delivered to China in 1958. At best, this force represents a sort of ‘Silver Bullet’, capable of striking targets beyond the reach of the PLAAF’s regular assets, but they are in no way a strategic force.

Compared to recent Chinese fighter developments, the development of strategic bombers is surely less impressive. It will take several years for the remaining older H-6 variants to be replaced with the latest H-6K armed with KD-20 air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs). However, the oldest versions urgently need to be retired. Even the updated H-6K bombers will need a replacement within a foreseeable time frame (likely 5-8 years). Consequently, observers and enthusiasts alike are speculating when a new long-range—and probably even true strategic—bomber will appear.

PLAAF Officially Confirms Development of New Heavy Bomber

On September 1, 2016 during an interview given at the “2016’s PLAAF open day” in Changchun, Chinese Air Force Commander General Ma Xiaotian confirmed to the media that development of a new long range bomber is underway (Global Times, September 3, 2016). While presenting the latest H-6K to the public he announced that “the Chinese air force has now entered a phase of transition, we want to build a powerful Air Force both defensive and offensive.” Pointing to the H-6K he added: “Our long range strike capability has much improved compared to the past, and an even bigger improvement is coming. We are developing a new generation of long bomber” (Weibo, September 2, 2016).

The relative openness is surprising as is the fact that it has been discussed in other media. Though it largely went unnoticed by the Western media, China Daily reported on July 2015 that, according to Chinese military officials, a new strategic bomber should be capable of striking targets beyond the second island chain without aerial refueling, while carrying a payload of at least 10 metric tons. [2]

Nearly two years later, reports are becoming more frequent and reliable. Many interpret this openness as a hint of an imminent unveiling. Two reports give additional credence to this. In December 2016 China Central Television (CCTV) displayed a notional rendering of a future bomber—surely fan-art only as a placeholder—but in itself some sort of confirmation. Later, Retired Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, director of the PLA Navy’s Expert Consultation Committee and also a regular media commentator on Chinese military developments for CCTV, noted when asked on when the next-generation strategic bomber will make its debut, “we should have some patience.” Though his statement does not reveal any specifics, it is typical of the way China discloses such major programs to its public. In 2009, for example, Lieutenant General He Weirong, announced that “a Chinese fourth generation (by Chinese definition) fighter (referring to the J-20) will fly soon and be operational between 2017 and 2019,” a timeline which has been borne out by events.

Also widely admitted to the public is that the current bomber-force is no longer adequate and that China has never developed such a large-tonnage and long-range strategic bomber before. Consequently, the development issues are technically demanding. Another frequently-cited military expert Li Li added that ”the aircraft’s aerodynamic configuration will be quite different from that of a supersonic bomber. It may be a more realistic solution to select from the stealth capability and supersonic penetration.” Finally, most reports point out that “having a strategic bomber will become one of the symbols of China’s air force as a strategic service” (ChinaMil, February 17).

Program Status

Although many facts are still unclear, some information is available regarding this program:

The primary contractor for the new bomber is the Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation (also known as the Xi’an Aircraft Company Limited) XAC and its affiliated no. 603 Institute.

For certain areas like the wing geometry, the S-shaped dorsal engine intakes and the engine’s exhaust as well as the flight control system of the new bomber is said to have gained assistance for technical solutions from Shenyang’s SAC and its experience on the Sharp Sword UCAV.

The Chinese aviation industry seems generally confident that through the J-20’ and Y-20’s development (as well as via international cooperation) AVIC has gained enough expertise to overcome any eventual technical difficulties including engine location, air intake design, material selection and stealth technology.

The new strategic long-range bomber—officially known so far only as the “strategic project”—will probably be designated H-20 and has been under development since the late 1990s, or more likely, the early 2000s.

The PLAAF was reportedly undecided for some time about the requirement and what type of bomber would fit this best. Consequently—and similar to the alleged new tactical- or regional-bomber design under development at SAC—various configurations were studied ranging from supersonic configurations thru conventional and even quite innovative designs: one is said featuring a delta wing geometry and canards while others were more conventional to finally a subsonic stealthy flying wing design (Chinese Military Aviation Blog, February 12). [3]

Given the great secrecy of this program and the urgency of the Y-20 program, it was reported that the H-20-project only gained full momentum after the successful flight of latter in late 2012 or early 2013. Besides General Ma Xiaotian’s public confirmation in 2016, a first hint of the H-X’s progress was a news-report from December 2015 within the AVIC group reported about a digital 3D-mock-up of a “major project” being completed and currently the design is in the phase / stage of detailed design / engineering (AVIC, December 16, 2015). This was again noted in early 2017 by this consistently reliable source, and complemented by the information, that also a quality control system/platform for this 3D-mock-up—now called prototype—has now been established (Weibo, February 10). Also noted again was that:

“China’s next generation bomber has entered the detailed design / engineering stage and the program’s name is at least until its unveiling ‘new type long range combat aircraft’”

Consequently, it is assumed that individual parts of a prototype are already under construction since 2016 (some sources say since March) at XAC. And finally, from June 2017, a PLAAF Spokesman noted:

“The PLAAF has reached the threshold of having a strategic air force and has made historic progress in the field of aeronautics…. The PLAAF will.. enhance its broader ability to carry out a variety of missions” (MOD, June 21).

Following these reports, several scaled-down models were built and test-flown so that by 2011 a four-engined flying wing design similar in configuration to the US B-2 or even B-21 was chosen. Concerning other technical details, one can only speculate but the engines are most likely modified, afterburner-less WS-10A as an interim solution to the WS-15-derivative later. Academic concept papers published after November 2015 indicate that the H-X most likely features engines buried deep within the main wing’s structure to further reduce the radar cross signature (how stealth it is) and twin dorsal S-shaped engine intakes with saw tooth lips similar to those of the B-2 (AVIC, November 2015). The paper it was featured in also mentioned that development work on the ‘cockpit section’ and ‘intake configuration’ was finished by a joint R&D-team from Xi’an and Hanzhong’s 012 Base.

Range and Capabilities

Subsequent reports assess the new bomber to be a stealthy design in order to evade modern air defense systems and penetrate deep into the enemy’s territory (ChinaMil, February 17). Its range has to be dramatically longer than the current H-6K’s (range of more than 10,000 km, and combat radius of over 5,000 km and in-flight refueling-capable) while able to carry a heavy weapons load (smaller load than the B-2A’s 23 tons, but larger than H-6K) for both nuclear and conventional ordnance (China Brief, July 6). The few images published so far suggest a single center weapons-bay—albeit there are artworks depicting two bays—capable of carrying at least six KD-20 ALCMs or any other precision strike munition on a rotary launcher.

Consequently, the new bomber is expected to feature a modern avionics system built around an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar with conformal antennas again similar to the U.S. AN/APQ-181 LPI radar. Additionally, it is said to feature a modern electronic warfare-capability and to be also capable acting as a C4ISR node to interact with other sensor platforms like UAVs, AEW- and strategic reconnaissance aircraft to share information and target data (data fusion).

The PLAAF can currently reach with its H-6-bombers, at least 5,000-5,500 km (from the bomber base at Anqing) can be assumed. This range covers the South China Sea, the all-important first and the second Islands chains, Japan, up to the northern part of the Australia, and including Guam. However if one looks a bit further, the next major important U.S. base in a position to support the second line is Hawaii (and Australia). The dominance of U.S. forces in the Pacific region depends heavily these two points. Therefore, a range in excess of 8,500-9000km is likely a minimum requirement for the new bomber (EastPendulum, September 2, 2016).

Timeline for Development

The Chinese internet community is eagerly expecting the unveiling of the new bomber and are anticipating a maiden flight within the next two years. If a more reasonable timeline is used by assuming a similar development-cycle and timeframe comparable to the China’s indigenously-produced Y-20 transport aircraft—a roll out can be expected earliest around late 2019 and the first prototype could fly as early as 2020. [4]

Development milestone                                                             XAC Y-20                                             XACH-X (estimated)
Full-scale mock-up completed
(digital/metal)                                                                  early 2008 / 2010                                                   late 2013
Rumors that the #01 prototype was
under construction                                                                mid-2009                                              late 2015 / early 2016
Three prototypes (#01 – #03) finished,
#02 static test                                                                        mid 2012                                                late 2018 / early 2019
Roll out & first low speed taxiing                                         late 2012                                                              late 2019
First flight                                                                                early 2013                                                            early 2020

Conclusion

Particularly over the last 10 years the PLAAF has constantly and rapidly improved its capabilities not only by the introduction of new and more capable types but also by structural changes, training, and doctrine. However, specifically compared to the other services, the PLAAF still lacks a real ability to project power far from its borders. Its commitment to the improvement of its strategic airlift (through the Y-20), and modern strategic bombers are all stepping stones on its way to resolving that deficit.

PLAAF Commander General Ma Xiaotian’s September 2016 confirmation that development of a new long-range bomber is underway should come as no surprise. When the aircraft is completed, and is able to enter service in the mid-to-late 2020s, the PLAAF will indeed reach its goal of becoming a true “strategic force”, and be able to accomplish China’s strategic ambitions by acting as nuclear deterrent, being part of the triad, and to provide more effective strike options in order to challenge the dominance of the US-forces within the disputed South China Sea and in the Pacific region.

Andreas Rupprecht is an aviation journalist. He has written several books on China’s military aviation, including “Flashpoint China” and “Modern Chinese Warplanes”.

Notes

1. Fravel, M. Taylor: Securing Borders: China’s Doctrine and Force Structure for Frontier Defense, MIT, The Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 30, No. 4–5, pp. 705–737, August–October 2007 and “China’s security Problem”, RAND, http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1121/mr1121.ch2.pdf
2. The China Daily/AFP report “China needs long-range strategic bomber: state media”, 7th July 2015 (https://www.yahoo.com/news/china-needs-long-range-strategic-bomber-state-media-084622579.html), in turn cited Kanwa Defense for the 10-ton number so this is not an official number from a Chinese government publication.
3. It is worth noting that there are several patents online which, even if not specifically related to the new bomber, are at least related to “flying wing” configuration and aerodynamic research. See for example: (CN105398565) for a Chinese flying wing, B-2 styled, issued on March 16, 2016. The applicant is a company called QINGAN GROUP CO LTD (http://www.diigen.com/supplier/xian-qingan-group-aviation-mechanical-manufacture-co-ltd-china-6479312/), 2 Bonded Warehouse, Fengcheng 12 Road, Shaanxi Xi’an Export Processing Zone, Xi’an, Shaanxi.
4. Dates are significant, and it is possible that a new bomber could be unveiled on January 1, 2017—only 9 years after the J-20 performed its maiden flight in 2011, though this would ignore that the development of a new stealthy bomber is surely a more demanding task than a transport.

Additional References:

Rupprecht, Andreas: Dragon’s Wings: Chinese Fighter and Bomber Aircraft Development, Ian Allen (now Crecy Publishing) 26. September 2013, ISBN-10: 1906537364, ISBN-13: 978-1906537364 (http://www.crecy.co.uk/dragon-s-wings)

Rupprecht, Andreas & Cooper, Tom: Modern Chinese Warplanes – Combat Aircraft and Units of the Chinese Air Force and Naval Aviation, Harpia Publishing L.L.C., 29 October 2012, ISBN-10: 0985455403, ISBN-13: 978-0985455408 (http://www.harpia-publishing.com/node/117)

Rupprecht, Andreas: Flashpoint China – Chinese air power and regional security, Harpia Publishing L.L.C., 21 April 2016, ISBN-10: 0985455403, ISBN-13: 978-0985455408

(http://www.harpia-publishing.com/OurBooks?q=node/286)

Rupprecht, Andreas: Small but powerful – China’s bomber force, Combat Aircraft (magazine), Key Publishing October 2016 (Vol. 17/No. 10 – free supplement: Strategic bombers of the world).

Source: Jamestown Foundation “The PLA Air Force’s “Silver-Bullet” Bomber Force”

Note: This is Jamestown Foundation’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.