Planespotter witness possible hypersonic weapon on Chinese bomber
Footage emerged online of a Chinese H-6N strategic bomber carrying what appears to be a supersonic anti-ship weapon. The existence of such a weapon in the Chinese arsenal had not been officially confirmed so far.
A few pictures and a video shared by a planespotter on social media showed an H-6N strategic bomber landing. The aircraft is an evolution of the Xian H-6K strategic bomber, itself derived from the Russian Tupolev Tu-16. It boasts an improved range thanks to the addition of an aerial refueling probe, and attachment points under the airframe to carry large hypersonic weapons.
Thus, some speculate that the missile that can be seen attached to the undercarriage of the aircraft is a DF-21 hypersonic anti-ship missile, also known as the CH-AS-X-13. Such a weapon represents a great asset for the People's Liberation Army against carrier groups. In August 2019, following the broadcast of a DF-21 live firing, a Chinese military source commented to the South Morning China Post: “This is China’s response to the potential risks brought by the increasingly frequent incoming US warplanes and military vessels in the South China Sea.”
China with the DF-21 and Russia with the Zircon and Kinzhal missiles have both been at the vanguard of hypersonic weapon development. In May 2020, a Russian military source announced that a new hypersonic anti-ship missile, most likely a variant of the Kh-47М2 Kinzhal missile, had been successfully tested from a Tu-22M3M strategic bomber.
The United States seems to be lagging behind when it comes to hypersonic weapons. It is currently developing two different weapons: the HAWC (Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept) and the ARRW (Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon). A third program, the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW), was canceled due to budget constraints in February 2020.
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