TechUS B-21 Raider bomber enters mass production, sparking Chinese military interest

US B‑21 Raider bomber enters mass production, sparking Chinese military interest

Visualization - on the left B-2, on the right B-21.
Visualization - on the left B-2, on the right B-21.
Images source: © Af.mil, Mike Tsukamoto
9:35 AM EST, February 2, 2024

Speaking to the Chinese weekly, Global Times, a Chinese military expert, preferring anonymity, suggested that "despite the use of cutting-edge production technologies, rapid progress may give rise to many unanticipated technical problems, potentially stalling the project." He was commenting on the rate of progress on America's future bomber, the B-21 Raider. He added that it manifests the "incessant attempts by the US to contain China and sustain global military dominance."

Mass production of the B-21 Raider initiated by Americans

In November 2023, reports arrived about the B-21's maiden flight, and swiftly afterwards in January 2024, the Americans announced the inception of its mass production. The Global Times suggests Chinese analysts perceive it as a rushed decision, since production traditionally begins post demonstration and prototype stages that can extend over years. Experts emphasize that "China remains uninterested in engaging in an arms race with the US, but will bolster its national defence capabilities to ensure national security."

Chinese military expert, Zhang Xuefeng, told the Global Times that aside from cruise and ballistic missiles, China might also target enemy airfields by employing its fleet of bombers, some of which share capabilities akin to the B-21. Xuefeng did not specify any particular bombers, however, Chinese media frequently reports Beijing's work on their stealth bomber, presumably named the H-20.

The stealth bomber H-20 from China - what is the extent of our knowledge?

As stated by the Chinese state media, the development of the H-20 bomber is underway, with an aim to deploy it sometime this decade. Its design is kept under strict confidentiality, yet China has implied several times that the H-20 bears similarities to the American B-21. The Pentagon's "China Military Power Report" from 2018 and 2019 hinted that the range of the H-20 might be about 5282 miles.

A report from London's Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies suggested that the Chinese bomber may carry a significant weapons load of approximately 28 miles, and can fly long distances without the requirement of mid-air refuelling. Warrior Maven highlighted the "notorious and well-documented Chinese tendency of attempting to replicate or plagiarise American weapon designs," particularly in the case of the H-20. The service notes features like a similar rounded upper fuselage, curved upper air intakes, and essentially a lack of vertical structures.

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