(This was originally posted in The Free Press Journal)
China is conducting the final trials of Xian H-20 strategic stealth bombers at its Hotan airbase, opposite eastern Ladakh, as the US pulls out its troops from Afghanistan and the border standoff with India continues. Sources said H-20 bombers are aimed at ending the edge India acquired through the acquisition of Rafale jets.
The final trials of the long-range strategic stealth bomber began on June 8 and will continue till June 22, the day that marks 100 years of the formation of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The Xian H-20 strategic stealth bomber has stealth features and long endurance, coupled with the capability to carry heavy payloads, which could potentially dodge the “detect and disable radar” capability of India’s newly-inducted Rafale aircraft. China, which has touted the induction of H-20 bombers as a “game-changer”, is the third country after the US and Russia to possess stealth technology for fighters. The move could have repercussions for geopolitics in the region as also power play by the US and its allies in the disputed South China Sea and Taiwan.
A top government source said that the stealth feature makes the Chinese strategic supersonic jets undetectable by any radar and Beijing seems to be going aggressive in protecting its investments in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as also Afghanistan. It is a matter of worry for India, the source said. The jets have enhanced “beyond visual range” (3,000 km) and significant payloads can make these bombers hit targets in Balochistan, Afghanistan, or Ladakh even without crossing the boundary. As per a 2020 Pentagon report on Chinese military power, the H-20s are estimated to have a range of 5,281 miles and a lift capacity of 10 tons of munitions.