AVIC, the Chinese conglomerate, teased audiences worldwide with the first official glimpse of the country’s first stealth bomber. The preview comes at the end of an eight-minute video made to celebrate the Xian Aircraft Corporation’s (XAC) 60th anniversary on May 8, 2018. The giant flying wing aircraft appears shrouded in canvas inside a high tech hangar. The visual resemblance to Northrup Grumman’s 2015 Super Bowl ad showing off the B-21 Raider stealth bomber is presumably deliberate. It is likely AVIC’s way of proclaiming that it’s arrived, fast on American heels, to the exclusive club of strategic bombers.
Keeping in mind that the video image could be pure theater and bear little or no resemblance to the actual bomber, the craft appears to be a large flying wing, optimized for stealth. A bent in the leading edge of the wing suggests that the bomber, tentatively identified as the “H-20”, may utilize a cranked wing design, in which the outer edges of the wings have less sweep than the blended fuselage, similar to the X-47B UAS. The fuselage bulges prominently and is expected to hold the cockpit, and air intakes for the engines.
China’s willingness to promote its next-generation stealth bomber in public media is part of a wider trend in promoting new Chinese platforms like J-20 stealth fighters and aircraft carriers as part of China’s growing power. While the new plane is covered in canvas, it’s intended as a clear message to both domestic and international audiences.
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Peter Warren Singer is a strategist and senior fellow at the New America Foundation. He has been named by Defense News as one of the 100 most influential people in defense issues. He was also dubbed an official “Mad Scientist” for the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. Jeffrey is a national security professional in the greater D.C. area. They both are Associates with the U.S. Air Force University’s China Aerospace Studies Institute.