BEIJING – The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force (PLA) would have put into service the latest modification of its strategic H-6N bomber, armed with CH-AS-X-13 ballistic missiles.
The new version of the H-6N has new, more powerful engines, upgraded avionics, longer range and payload, as well as lower maintenance needs, Military Watch reports.
According to the portal, the CH-AS-X-13 ballistic missile is allegedly derived from the DF-21 ground-based ballistic missile, which is currently in service in the Chinese Army. The missile has a range of about 1,800 kilometers, while the H-6N bomber is capable of surpassing about 6,000 kilometers. Even combining the two radii of action, this would still leave the American continent out of reach.
Given that the scope of the new missile is limited, this means that the H-6N bomber equipped with this missile is more tactical than strategic. Taking into account China’s military doctrine, this indicates that CH-AS -X-13 may not be a nuclear medium.
Strategic bombers from Russia and the United States, such as the D-2 Spirit and Tu-160 Blackjack, are capable of reaching another continent, the same is not the case with the Chinese aircraft, that is, it is unable to launch nuclear attacks on the continent the main target of China’s strategic deterrence.
It is noteworthy that the missile’s ability to target targets at high-precision Mach 10 hypersonic speeds would destroy a US super-aircraft in a single attack, the portal quoted the US Naval Institute as saying.
Thus, while the H-6N can give China’s nuclear triad a third component, the PLA still does not have an effective means to conduct highly effective long-range airborne attacks necessary to constitute a viable strategic deterrent – capacity that only Russia and the US have.
However, the development of aerial launch ballistic missiles could contribute to the development of aircraft capable of strategic nuclear attacks, particularly in the context of the H-20 stealth bomber project, which should have intercontinental reach, writes the article’s author at Military Watch.
According to a report released by the US Department of Defense, new bombers equipped with intermediate-range nuclear missiles provided the PLA with the third component of the nuclear triad, along with missiles launched from the ground and from submarines.