H-6 Medium Range Bomber-Xian H-6

H-6 Medium Range Bomber, The Xian H-6 is a license built version of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 Twin Engine Jet Bomber, built for China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

H-6 Medium Range Bomber
H-6 Medium Range Bomber

In the late 1950s China acquired a few Tu-16 medium-range bombers from the Soviet Union. Later this aircraft was license produced in China as Xian H-6. The Chinese version first flew in 1959. Some sources report that the first indigenous bomber was completed in 1968. At least 150 of these bombers were built.

Over 100-120 of these bombers are currently in service with China. Most of them are operated by the Air Force, while some are used by the Chinese Navy. Former operators are Egypt and Iraq.

   The original H-6 was a conventional bomber. Only with the introduction of H-6A it received nuclear strike capability.

   This bomber is intended to attack priority targets and engage US carrier battle groups. The H-6 can carry 9 000 kg of payload, including various air-to-surface, air-to-ship missiles or free-fall bombs. This aircraft has nuclear attack capability, Some of the versions can carry air-launched cruise missiles.

   Initial production versions of the H-6 bomber were armed with a number of 23 mm cannons for self-defense. There are two cannons in remote dorsal turret, two in remote ventral turret, and two cannons in manned tail turret. Some aircraft carry one more 23 mm cannon in the nose. Later production models have some or most of the cannons removed. Also on later models crew was reduced from six to four men.

   This bomber is fitted with two Xian WP8 turbojets. It is the engine of the Tupolev Tu-16, produced in China under license. This aircraft lacks sufficient range for truly strategic missions. With the increased development in ballistic missile technology the nuclear strike role of the H-6 diminished in importance.

   Despite all upgrades and improvements design of the Xian H-6 is dated back to the 1950s. Some sources report that China develops a new bomber aircraft that will replace the ageing H-6.

H-6 Variants

H-6 original conventional medium-range bomber.

   H-6A nuclear bomber.

   H-6B reconnaissance aircraft.

   H-6C conventional bomber with improved countermeasures suite.

   H-6D version used by Chinese Navy. It was introduced in the early 1980s and was intended to engage US carrier battle groups. Originally it carried two C-601 anti-ship missiles under each wing. Later these were upgraded to two C-301 or four C-101 anti-ship missiles. The aircraft is fitted with a larger radome under the nose. 30 of these aircraft were in service in 2010.

   B-6D is an export version of the H-6D. These aircraft were exported to Egypt and Iraq. Egypt obtained some of these bombers. Last was retired in 2000. Iraq obtained 4 of these bombers. Three of these bombers were destroyed in 1991 during the Gulf War. The last one was destroyed in 2003.

   H-6E nuclear bomber with improved countermeasures suite. It entered service with Chinese Air Force in 1980s.

   H-6F new designation for upgraded H-6A and H-6C bombers. Many aircraft were updated to this configuration in the 1990s. This aircraft is fitted with new radar and navigation system.

   H-6G provides targeting data to ground-launched cruise missiles. It appeared in the 1990s. This aircraft has no internal bomb bay and carries no defensive armament.

   H-6H cruise missile carrier. It appeared in the 1990s. It carriers two land attack cruise missiles but has no internal bomb bay or defensive armament.

   H-6M cruise missile carrier, fitted with terrain following system. It can carry up to 4 cruise missiles. This aircraft has no internal bomb bay or defensive armament.

   HD-6 electronic warfare aircraft. It is fitted with solid nose and canoe fairing with electronic countermeasures equipment.

   HY-6 (also referred H-6U) aerial refueling tanker. These aircraft were converted from bombers. A total of 10 of these aircraft were in service in 2010.

   H-6K is a recent upgrade of the bomber. It made its first flight in 2007 and entered service in 2009. The aircraft is fitted with Russian engines, new avionics, has reinforced structure. The bomb bay was eliminated in favor of extra fuel for a longer range. It carries air-launcher cruise missiles with a range of over 2 000 km under its wings. The Xian H-6K is considered as a strategic bomber. It is intended for long-range and stand-off attacks and is capable of attacking priority targets in Asia. Its missiles can reach Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, and even Moscow form China’s mainland, without leaving air defense zone.

   H-6N is the latest version with in-flight refueling capability. As a result it has a much longer operational range than the H-6K or alternatively can carry heavier weapons. It appears that bomb bay was removed and concave belly was created. It is speculated that this allows to carry reconnaissance drones or anti-ship missiles under the belly. The H-6N was first publicly revealed in 2019. By that time this bomber was already in operational service.

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