May 22, 2018

Chinese Bombers Threatening Because they Are highly Visible

Pete's Comments

So China has publicized the ability of its H-6K bombers to very temporarily operate (ie. land and takeoff) from Woody Island is more symbolic of visible power projection into the South China Sea (SCS) than a fundamentally new threat. 

The whole SCS and surrounding nations can already be hit with more stealth and surprise by Chinese missiles from other platforms, including MRBMs, IRBMs, SLBMs and extended range SLCMs. Chinese surface ships, air-refueled jet fighters and land based cruise missiles on the islands themselves could already fire missiles at some or all of these SCS targets. 

It is highly public threats, even from mainly old technology, very unstealthy, bombers, like the H-6K, that can cause anxiety in nations that have only modest anti-aircraft capabilities and generally no 
anti-missile capabilities. The H-6Ks very visibility represent public and political threats. This is similar to the highly visible threat from US aircraft carrier groups when compared to the invisible and more potent threat from cruise and ballistic missile carrying US submarines.


I've added links to useful comments on May 22, 2018 from:

KQN: “China is gradually enforcing its claim on the SCS. The Nine-Dash Line has morphed into a solid line. It is a well thought out strategy, reinforcing your territorial claims with less than subtle threats to neighboring countries, achieving your strategic goals while avoiding open conflicts (which would threaten the economic well being of all). We can already predict H-6K's will be landing next in the Spratly's. Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs all haveclass A runways, as long as the one on Woody. [See Airport Table below]. Several reinforced hangars there are large enough for them. That will put Northern Australia and Guam within range.” [see map below].


Josh “The H-6K is aerodynamically similar to previous H-6s and Tu-16s, but the use of modern turbofans (of Russian manufacture - the Soloviev D-30s) give it a much greater range and payload. That said it is still a regional bomber, not an intercontinental one. Australia for instance would be out of practical range of even cruise missiles without midair refueling.”

The upper set of blue-black dots are potential H-6K bomber Paracel Island takeoff points, including Woody Island Air Base [see Table below]. These points put all of the South China Sea, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore within the "combat radii" of the bombers' once the bombers land attack and anti-ship cruise missiles are fired.
(Map courtesy CSIS

The lower set of dots represent H-6K bombers launched from China's Spratly Island air bases (see Table below) with combat radii extended by cruise missiles (and mid-air refueling) are able to hit all of Indonesia as well as Darwin, Australia 

AIR BASES TABLE for Spratly Islands (source) and Woody Island (in Paracel Islands)

Occupied by
1,200 m (est.)
Military use only. No refuel facilities. [1]
Dual-use concrete airport.
3,300m (est.)
Dual-use concrete airport.
3,300m (est.)
Dual-use concrete airport.
2,700m (est.)
Dual-use concrete airport.
1,300m (est.)
Spratly Island (Trường Sa) on Spratly Islands
1,200 m (est.)
Military use only.

Even in aerial bomber capabilities symbolism counts.

Pete, KQN and Josh


Anonymous said...

Old large subsonic bombers with their abilities to lift very large payloads do just fine in the age of very long range cruise missiles and/or hypersonic missiles. China has H-6k, US has B-52 and Russia is still using its Bears.
Let's not forget the H-6k can also carry the air launched variant of the DF-21 similar to Russia's Kinzhal.

Josh said...


No variant of H-6K can launch DF-21. This is a rumor with nothing more than a fan boy diagram to go with it. If you have a source for this being an operational system, please post.