H6 Bomber - Chinese PLAAF
The H-6 (Hongzha-6 or Hong-6) is the Chinese copy of the Russian Tupolev Tu-16 (NATO codename: Badger) medium-range bomber. For more than three decades, the bomber has remained the backbone of the PLA’s long-range strike fleet. Today, the PRC is the only country in the world that still deploys the Tu-16/H-6 in operational service, serving in a wide range of roles from nuclear and tactical bomber, to naval missile bomber, tanker, reconnaissance/electronic warfare, engine testbed, and cruise missile platform. The service life of this 40-year-old design in the PLA is expected to continue beyond the year 2015.
China has had a long love affair with this Tupolev designed offspring of Boeing's B-29. During the 1960s Xian (Harbin) reverse engineered the Tu-16K Badger A/B to provide a nuclear strike force, with most of the currently cited inventory of around 120 PLA-AF H-6E/I and 30 PLA-N H-6D Badgers built between 1968 and 1990.
China's Badger production ramped up during the 1970s and slowed down post 1990 when the last four H-6Ds were exported to Iraq, with spares being an ongoing export to support Egypt's Soviet supplied Tu-16Ks.
Initial models were essentially cloned Tu-16/16K/16KS Badger A/B, designated H-6A in PLA-AF service and armed with dumb bombs or special weapons.
Two B-29 style remote control barbettes and a tail gunner's station, each with paired Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 guns were retained, including the PRS-1 Bee Hind tail gun radar.
The Tu-16K/H-6 Badger is a very close equivalent to the long retired RAF Vickers Valiant B(K).1. Upper image Christmas Island during the Grapple A-bomb trials.
Xi'an Aircraft Industry (Group) Company Limited under AVIC (hereinafter XAC), the large-sized aviation industry enterprise integrated with scientific research and production, is a base of developing and manufacturing large and medium-sized airplanes in China, and under the leadership of AVIC Aircraft Company Limited. XAC covers a total area of over 3.7 million square meters, has more than 9,000 of various kinds of equipment and instruments, and owns more than 19,000 employees.
The H-6D variant saw the Styx weapon system in the Komar and Osa missile boats transplanted into the H-6 Badger airframe, requiring a larger radome to house the Type 245 Square Tie attack radar (US DoD, PLA via CMA).
The subsequent navalised H-6D carried the Chinese Type 245 attack radar in a bulkier radome, and a pair of large liquid rocket powered 5,400 lb C-601/YJ-6 (CAS-1 Kraken) ASCMs, based on the HY-2 Silkworm, a P-21 Styx derivative. More recently longer ranging C-611/YJ-61 have been carried. For comparison, in role the CAS-1 Kraken compares most closely to the Soviet liquid rocket powered KSR-2 / AS-5A Kelt carried by a range of AV-MF Tu-16K variants.
The most recent variant identified in operational service is a subtype usually labelled the 'H-6H' which has all guns removed, the dorsal station faired over and the ventral station replaced with a large bulged radome, retaining two missile pylons. This variant is armed with a pair of KD-63 TV/datalink guided cruise missiles, derived from the HY-4 Sadsack, itself a turbojet derivative of the Kraken/Seersucker series. Chinese sources claim the radome covers the datalink antenna for the KD-63 missile system.
The are claims of a H-6G variant for missile targeting, analogous to the Tu-95RTs Bear D in role. No details are available at this time.
The H-6H has recently been joined by similar new build variant, usually labelled the 'H-6M', which adds two more pylons outboard and removes the aft gunner's blisters and ventral radome to cut drag. The are also reports this variant uses the bomb bay fuel tank developed for the H-6U tanker to extend operating radius. This 'H-6H' derivative has been identified as a 'cruise missile carrier' but the cruise missile type has yet to be disclosed - US sources claim 25 airframe rebuilds or new builds were planned.
Footage from the 2002 Zhuhai Airshow AVIC I promotional video shows a 'H-6M' prototype carrying four missiles which appear to be the YJ-82 derivatives - or dummy payloads of similar shape.
In terms of land attack cruise missiles five immediate possibilities exist - the indigenous HN-1, HN-2 and HN-3 credited by Russian sources with 325 NMI (600 km), 800 NMI (1,500 km) and 1,350 NMI (2,500 km) range carrying 'special' payloads or less with a 900 lb (400 kg) class conventional payload, a cloned Tomahawk widely reported, likely to be the DH-10, and a variant of the 3,300 lb (1,500 kg) class Raduga Kh-65SE or Kh-55SM cruise missile. The Kh-65 is based on the Kh-55/RKV-500 (AS-15 Kent) carried by Russian Bear/Blackjack and is an equivalent to the Boeing AGM-86B ALCM. There are reports claiming that a design data package, and tooling for the Kh-65SE were exported to the PRC post 2000. All of these missiles are claimed to use Tercom/inertial guidance like the US AGM-86 and BGM-109 series.
While the Badger is not a credible penetrator armed with free fall bombs, if armed with a modern 600 NMI class conventional cruise missile, or 1,300 NMI class nuclear armed cruise missile, it becomes a credible strategic strike asset offering a reach of 1,900 to 2,600 NMI. Carrying dumb bombs it replicates the close air support capability of the B-52H and B-1B. If operated in a similar fashion to these US types it could remain in service another 40 years.
The most recent reports from China suggest a third new build variant is in test, usually labelled the 'H-6K'. This subtype has a solid nose completely revised against the legacy H-6U, six wing pylons for cruise missiles, possibly one centreline pylon, and a bomb bay fuel tank.
The new nose section and crew station employs a multiple large panel glass cockpit, ejection seats for the three or four crew members, a large aperture attack radar, ventral thermal imager turret, and EWSP blister radomes. Poor quality imagery available indicates that a much larger engine inlet is used, indicating that claims of a new turbofan engine are indeed correct. Chinese sources are claiming the Saturn D-30KP-2 is employed, due to a purchase of the several dozen of these engines in recent years. The 'H-6K' is thus the most radical development of the H-6 Badger to date. With much lower SFC than the WP-8/RD-3M engine of the baseline Badger, and ~85,000 lb of internal fuel, this variant will outrange all earlier Badgers signficantly (until engine type and installed SFC are known more accurate estimates of range increases are problematic). The missiles visible on existing imagery are of the configuration of the Kh-55/DH-10/YJ-62, but poor quality precludes a more accurate assessment. What is clear is that the H-6K is designed as a cruise missile carrier to fit the 'second island chain' strategy.
The WS18, which powers the new X'ian H6K bomber, is a coproduced version of the Russian Dvigatel D30KP turbofan, which powers the IL-76. It has been oft reported that SARI was developing a highbypass turbofan based on the engine core 8developed for the WS10A. The prototype for this engine may be known as the FWS10118, which also may be known as the WS10D, a 12+ton thrust engine.
There are claims, only supported by photographs of models, that the H-6K uses a tailcone fairing similar to the Badger L design adopted by the Soviets to replace the DK-7 tail gun barbette with electronic warfare equipment.
Open sources identify the 8th (merged with the 48th), 10th, 36th Bomber Divisions as the principal units flying the H-6A/E/H/U Badgers, and the 2nd Bomber Division flying the H-6D/DU.
The Tupolev Tu-16 (codenamed "Badger" by NATO) owed its success story to the Cold War and its own versatility. Throughout its production life, the Tu-16 would go on to become arguably the best medium-type bomber platform in service with the Red Air Force, so much so in fact, that a slew of variants would be produced from the initial Type 88 prototype system flown in April of 1952. The Tu-16 would be a common site throughout the periphery of Soviet airspace, often photographed in "friendly" encounters by patrolling NATO forces in the air.
Images have emerged showing a Chinese air force bomber performing an unusual strike mission earlier this month. After being loaded with unguided glide bombs, the venerable H-6 bomber is shown dropping three as part of a military effort to clear a 2km (1.2 miles)-long build-up of ice on the Yellow river near Ordos, Inner Mongolia. Three of the twin-engined aircraft were used to release 24 of the 500kg (1,100lb) weapons during the activity, according to a report by the Strategy Page website. China's air force has an active fleet of around 120 of the Xian-built bombers, says Flightglobal's MiliCAS database, with around 30 also in use with the nation's naval aviation wing. The type is a locally built version of the Soviet-era Tupolev Tu-16, which was first flown in the early 1950s.