China and Russia are negotiating about the purchase of Russian bombers Tupolev Tu-22M3 Backfire long-range strategic bombers and Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bombers. Very much is unclear about China’s requirements, but defense analyst Wendell Minnick has some backgrounds on what China is going, he writes in Defense News.
What analysts do know is that China’s military is upgrading its Xian H-6 medium-range bomber, a licensed variant of the Tu-16. The upgrade, known as the H-6K, includes a re-engineered Russian NPO Saturn D-30KP turbofan engine, larger air intakes, die-electric nose radome and a redesigned flight deck. The engines boost its range to 3,500 kilometers and allow it to carry both land-attack cruise missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles.
Richard Fisher, a senior fellow of Asian military affairs at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said China has begun outfitting the H-6K with a new supersonic, 400-kilometer-range anti-ship missile, YJ-12 Eagle Strike, which also might be outfitted on the Xian JH-7 Flying Leopard fighter-bomber and Shenyang J-11 fighters.
Fisher said he does not believe recent reports out of China that Russia may sell refurbished Tu-22M3s to China. China chose to upgrade the H-6 over offers to buy the Tu-22M3 over a decade ago, he said.
China is also developing a stealthier variant of the JH-7 fighter-bomber and reportedly developing a copy of the Russian Su-34 strike bomber, dubbed the J-17, Fisher said, “all of which would tend to deny funds for a purchase of Su-34s” from Russia.
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