China Has Its Very Own B-52 Like Bomber (With 'Russian DNA')

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China Has Its Very Own B-52 Like Bomber (With 'Russian DNA')

The H-6K is a 21st-century version of a Soviet bomber that first flew in April 1952.

Today just three countries operate long-range heavy bombers. Russia has 170 or so Bears, Backfires and Blackjacks. America fields 160 swing-wing B-1s, radar-evading B-2s and stalwart B-52s.

China’s bomber force is smaller with around 130 H-6s. And most of the H-6s, copies of Russia’s Cold War Tu-16, lack the long range and heavy payload that many of the Russian and American bombers boast.

But that’s changing. After years of work, the Chinese air force has reportedly outfitted two regiments—together possessing around 36 bombers — with a new, much more capable “K” version of the H-6.

(This article by David Axe originally appeared at War is Boring in 2015.)

The H-6K is Beijing’s B-52 — a far-flying, fuel-efficient heavy bomber combining a simple, time-tested airframe with modern electronics and powerful, precision weaponry. Although to be fair, the B-52 flies much farther with more bombs and missiles.

Still, over the vast Pacific Ocean, where the tyranny of distance prevents most aircraft from operating efficiently, the H-6K could prove to be one of China’s most important planes in wartime.

But the H-6K could have a big weakness — one that actually has little to do with the bomber itself.

Tupolevs forever

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