China’s H-20 Stealth Bomber: A Threat to the U.S. Military?

Following the debut of the American B-21 strike stealth bomber in December, the U.S. military demonstrated to the world that all three legs of its nuclear triad are undergoing strategic modern-ization efforts. However, China has emulated the push to expand its nuclear weapons capabilities as it seeks to supersede the U.S. in military might.

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s (PLAAF’s) “B-2 copycat” — the H-20 bomber — is expected to enter service within this decade. Once commissioned, China’s first-ever nuclear-capable strategic bomber could reach targets within the United States.

This capability, in addition to the H-20’s weapons capacity and other unknowns, is deeply troubling. While the U.S. B-2 Spirit remains the only operational stealth bomber in the world today, a PLA near-copy may soon enter the picture.

Although China’s stealth bomber program was not officially recognized until 2016, the PLAAF likely began working on initial bomber designs in the early 2000s. A top Northrop Grumman design engineer was charged with violating the Arms Export Control Act in 2005 after being caught selling B-2 bomber information to Beijing. By 2013, Chinese aviation expert Andreas Ruppercht released renderings of models that emulated the development of a pending Chinese stealth bomber.

One year later, a state-run Chinese media outlet reported that the PLAAF was working on an “intercontinental strategic bomber capable of penetrating an enemy’s air defenses.” The Aviation Industry Corporation of China released a video in 2018 depicting a bomber underneath a drop cloth that is believed to be the H-20.

While so much remains unknown regarding the airframe, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) is undoubtedly working to achieve full air superiority in an effort to surpass its adversaries. Analysts believe that the H-20 bomber could have a range of 5,300 miles, raising concerns that the airframe could reach beyond the first Island Chain off the coast of China and into Japan, the Philippines, or even the U.S. territory of Guam.

A 2018 Pentagon assessment also detailed how the development of a refuelable bomber would pose even more risks for the United States. The PLAAF could “expand long-range offensive bomber capability beyond the second island chain” if a refuelable bomber were developed.

Design-wise, the H-20 appears to be an American B-2 Spirit copycat. Based on imagery and videos released in China, analysts believe the H-20 will sport a flying wing design, which provides vital stealth advantages. Since the airframe has no fuselage or tail, the H-20 could fly with low drag and high structural efficiency. Additionally, this type of design generates more lift compared to other fixed-wing airframes and is effective at limiting detection from high and low-frequency radar bands.

Regardless of the extent of abilities China’s upcoming H-20 stealth bomber will possess, one thing remains abundantly clear. Beijing is working tirelessly to develop a military arsenal that will at least match the prowess of the United States. Consequentially, the PRC’s efforts to achieve a “world-class military” by 2049 are well underway.

– edited from 19FortyFive, February 10, 2023
PeaceMeal, Winter 2023

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Trove of leaked photos reveals China’s abuses in Uyghur detention camps

Susan D’Agostino
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May 25, 2022

A hacker broke into a network of police computers in China’s so-called Vocational Skills Education and Training Centers, exposing files that reveal significant abuses, according to a Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies paper released this week. The Xinjiang Police Files, as the cache is called, include a trove of speeches, images, spreadsheets, and other documents revealing widescale abuses against Uyghurs and other minority ethnic groups. The unprecedented collection provides the first images from inside the Chinese detainment camps, reveals shoot-to-kill orders from former Governor Chen Quanguo, and exposes demands for new camps from President Xi Jinping “because existing ones are overcrowded,” Adrian Zenz, senior fellow at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and the study’s author, wrote on Twitter.

Since 2017, the Chinese government has detained Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Outside observers with little access to the region have struggled to understand the nature and scale of the detentions. But a transcript of a 2018 speech given by a public security minister, Zhao Kezhi, suggests that China had interned between one and two million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities by the late 2010s and that Xi knew of these details, according to another report published this week by Zenz.

Zenz’s paper was peer-reviewed and authenticated by more than a dozen investigative research teams at global news organizations, including the BBC and Le Monde. The credibility of the trove, Zenz also notes is “bolstered by their sheer volume; the detail, specificity, and metadata in many of the included photos; internal textual consistency; and overlap with previous document leaks.” Further, the cache “broadly aligns with witness accounts, documentary evidence, and satellite imagery that all point to internment on a very large scale.”

The massive collection contains more than 2,800 images of detainees, 300,000 personal records, and 23,000 detainee records, some of which are depicted in the BBC’s photo essay, “The faces from China’s Uyghur detention camps.” ( Spreadsheets indicate that over 12 percent of the 2018 adult Uyghur county population was in camps or prisons.

China has denied accusations of mass incarceration and claimed that attendance is voluntary. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Michelle Bachelet is scheduled to visit Xinjiang this week but said that her trip is not an investigation, according to Bloomberg.

“We are concerned the trip might do more harm than good,” World Uyghur Congress spokesperson Zumretay Arkin told Reuters. “China could use it for propaganda purposes.”

Susan D’Agostino is an associate editor at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Her article was reprinted in PeaceMeal, May/June/July 2022.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)