China is developing a new stealth bomber called the H-20 to firm up the PLA strategic bomber force, said Bill Sweetman, a military journalist and Richard D. Fisher, an expert in Chinese military development.
Russia and China are both proceeding with bomber plans while the United States is developing its own Long-Range Strike Bomber project, said the Washington-based Aviation Week & Space Technology report. China's H-20 bomber is most likely to be developed and produced by Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation. The aircraft concept will probably be a subsonic low-observable "flying wing" configuration.
The development of a stealth bomber received "renewed national attention" back in Oct. 2013, according to colonel Wu Guohui, an associate professor from China's National Defense University. "In the past China has been weak regarding bombers, but in the future will develop long-range strike aircraft," he said. Even though the PLA Air Force has said virtually nothing regarding their plans, the H-20's completion is rumored to fall somewhere around 2025.
By that time, China will need the stealth bomber to accomplish two important strategic ambitions. The first is denying the US from entering the First Island Chain, extending from Alaska to the Philippines. Second, China will have to solidify its leadership in the Far East with a wide force projection capability. The H-20 would allow the PLA Air Force to complement the gathering global aircraft carrier and amphibious projection capabilities of its navy.
The H-20 could be developed as an unmanned combat aerial vehicle if the US and Russia decide to design their future bombers as such.
In the meantime, the PLA continues to develop a new version of the H-6 bombers and upgrade obsolete models with new weapons. Russia's rejection of China's request to purchase the more advanced Tu-22M3 leaves the country with no option but to develop or upgrade its own aircraft.