China's Aging Bomber Bigger Threat Than Brand New Carrier

China’s workhorse strategic bomber force is a far bigger threat to the US and allies in the western Pacific than the recently deployed Liaoning aircraft carrier, according to a Washington-based strategic think tank.

The H-6K bomber built by Xi’an Aricraft Industries Corporation was derived from the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 twin-engine jet bomber first built in the early 1950s. By licensing the technology China began production of its H-6 bomber in 1958. The Xian H-6K is the most recent version. Its wing pylons can hold six CJ-10A cruise missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles). Another can be attached in its internal weapons bay, along with up to 20 satellite- or laser-guided munitions.

The CJ-10A is similar to the Russian Kh-55 which was designed to target US aircraft carriers and strategic land-based targets. These missiles make the H-6K the most fearsome threat to the naval bases of the US and its allies in the Pacific, according to Mark Stokes, executive director of the Washing DC-based Project 2049 Institute.

The ability to carry cruise missiles is rare among the current generation of fighter-bombers built for more speed and maneuverability. For example, no European fighter-bomber has that capability.

China’s force of about 120 H-6K strategic bombers are also considered a bigger threat to US ships in the western Pacific than the Liaoning aircraft carrier launched last September, according to Taipei-based Asia-Pacific Defense journal.

Some H-6Ks armed with YJ-62 anti-ship missiles, which have a range of 300-350 km (188-218 miles), are deployed by the PLA Navy’s South Sea Fleet, according to Taipei-based Defense International journal.