The People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China Xian H-6 strategic bombers have wandered off to the Western Pacific Ocean for the first time in modern history, according to a news release by the Chinese Ministry of Defence.
Although “not aimed at any particular country or objective” an unknown number of the Chinese copy of the Russian Tupolev Tu-16 twin-engine bomber passed over the Bashi Channel south of Taiwan if the information providing by Beijing is correct. According to the info between two and ten H-6s took off from one of the almost 40 airfields / airbases in the Guangzhou region.
Interesting detail: while the Chinese Navy has up to 30 H-6s in its fleet, this time it were the Air Force bombers that were sent airborne “to enhance the Air Force sea mobile operations”. Judging by the information in the news release, the aircraft that participated were of the new H-6K version. The Kilo “Badger” – the latter being NATO’s reporting name for the Russian equivalent – has more powerful engines, larger air intakes, new avionics in the cockpit an new sensors, including in the nose radome.
China started to produce its own version of the Tupolev Tu-16 already in the 1950s, with the first flight of the Xian H-6 in 1959. The type was the first Chinese aircraft ever to perform an aerial nuclear weapon test, conducted at the Lop Nor proving grounds on 14 May 1965. Russia retired its last Soviet era Tu-16s in 1993, focusing nowadays on the more capable long-distance strategic bombers.
Operated by a crew of four the Xian H-6 has a relatively short combat radius of about 970 nautical miles (1,100 miles or 1,800 km). It is said to be able to operate up to 42,000 feet, has a cruise speed of 353 knots (477 mph or 768 kmh), but can accelerate to 567 knots (656 mph or 1,050 kmh). When not flying in combat mode it should be able to cover 3,200 nautical miles (3,700 miles or 6,000 km).
China is believed to have about 90 to 130 H-6s of various versions left in service. Their bases are known to include Anqing and Dajiaochang in the Nanjing region and Leiyang and Shaodong in the Ghangzou region.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): A military drill in front of the camera, likely older and taken on a different day then when the Western Pacific exercise drill occured (Image © Ministry of Defence, People’s Republic of China)