PLAAF Deputy Commissar Commented that H-20 Stealth Aircraft to be Unveiled “Soon”

PLAAF Commissar’s Comments

Muzi Haocheng, a Hong Kong Commercial Daily reporter interviewed People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Deputy Commissar and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) member, Lt. General Wang Wei, after the CPPCC ended on March 11th. During the interview, the reporter asked Wang several questions related to China’s H-20 strategic bomber. Wang made comments about several aspects of the aircraft, such as its development issues and its first public appearance.

Screenshot of interview between People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Deputy Commissar and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) member, General Wang Wei and Hong Kong Commercial Daily reporter Muzi Haocheng (Photo: Hong Kong Commercial Daily)

Wang “revealed” to Muzi that the H-20 will be officially announced soon, with him saying, “it’s [the H-20] coming soon, just wait!” Muzi then asked Wang about when the aircraft would enter service or mass production after its testing phase. Wang replied that “this [the process] is very fast, we will follow it immediately!” He then briefly talked about the H-20’s development process, saying that “there is no bottleneck, and all problems can be solved.” Wang also added that “our [Chinese] scientific researchers are now very good and are fully capable” of solving any issues related to the aircraft’s development.

Screenshot of other part of interview between People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Deputy Commissar and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) member, General Wang Wei and Hong Kong Commercial Daily reporter Muzi Haocheng (Photo: Hong Kong Commercial Daily)

The deputy commissar also replied to the question about whether the H-20 will significantly enhance the strength of the PLAAF by saying, “that is definitely the case. A generation of equipment brings a generation of combat power.” He also added that “it is worth being proud of and excited about, something of great significance. It is a new generation, another generation of new airplanes.” The reporter also asked Wang if the H-20 would close the strength gap between China and the United States. He said that “we [China and the United States] don’t compete with the United States, we only defend our own security!” Wang then smiled and stated, “this will be shown to everyone when the time comes!”

H-20

The H-20 is a subsonic stealth bomber that is currently under development by Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation, a subsidiary of the Aviation Industry Corporation of China. The H-20 is described as a subsonic stealth bomber that would be China’s first strategic bomber when it becomes operational. The aircraft incorporates various stealth features into its design, such as a flying wing design, radar-absorbent paints and materials, and other features. The aircraft’s estimated range is between 5,282 and 6,214 miles (8,500 to 10,000 km), which would allow the PLAAF to conduct bombing operations in the Second Island Chain and likely into the western Pacific. However, the H-20 would likely incorporate an in-flight refueling capability, enabling the aircraft to fly well beyond the Second Island Chain. The aircraft will likely be capable of carrying and using both conventional and nuclear munitions in its bomb bays.

Screenshot of H-20 covered by a sheet seen during 2021 PLAAF recruitment video

In 2016, then PLAAF Commanding General Ma Xiaotian announced that China is developing a “new generation of long-range bomber, and you see it in the future” during the PLAAF’s open day. AVIC released a promotional video in May 2018 that contained images of the various civilian and military aircraft the company produces, including the H-20. The video showed a digital rendering of the H-20 that was extremely similar to a 2015 video produced by Northrop Grumman that showed the company’s B-21 stealth aircraft.

Screenshot of moment when sheet is pulled off from H-20 aircraft through helmet reflection

In August 2018, Chinese state media outlet CCTV used the H-20 name and described the aircraft as a “new long-distance strategic bomber.” Then PLAAF Deputy Commanding General Lt. General Jia Zhigang and PLAAF Equipment Department head Lt. Colonel Zou Zhaosia made comments indicating that the H-20 is making progress. Both Jia’s and Zou’s comments occurred at a press conference during the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in November 2022.

Analysis

Wei’s answers to the reporter’s questions about the H-20 likely does indicate that China will unveil the aircraft sometime in the next year. The rationale behind this is due to Wei saying that the H-20 will be ready soon at the end of the CPPCC. The Chinese government uses both the CPPCC and the National People’s Congress (NPC) to highlight and present directives and policies on various topics, ranging from economics to defense. The H-20 fits into the topics discussed during both the CPPCC and NPC since it involves several topics discussed during the Two Sessions.

Furthermore, Wei’s comments regarding the scientists being “very good and are fully capable” and not having any issues in developing the technologies for the H-20 should also be seen in this context. For example, the comments also fit into what Chinese leader Xi Jinping discussed during the March 8th meeting with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and People’s Armed Police delegation. Xi’s highlighted and urged the delegation to incorporate high quality development and new quality productive forces that are important to developing strategic capabilities in emerging fields to make China a powerful country.

Another point that indicates that the comments hold some degree of truth is the position that Wei currently holds, the PLAAF Deputy Commissar. Commissars are used to push the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) line and its directives to almost every level found within its military organization. Wei’s comments should be seen through this lens because he wanted to signal to the PLA, China’s population, and foreign audiences that the H-20 will be unveiled soon. For example, the comments about the H-20 gained significant popularity after the newspaper posted the articles. The popularity stems from the Wei saying that the H-20 will be unveiled soon, and that the aircraft is something that is worthy of being proud of. Furthermore, the interview between Muzi and Wei was likely staged so Wei could deliver the comments to the news outlet.

Another example is how PLAN Deputy Commissar Yuan Huazhi commented about China beginning construction of the Type 004 aircraft carrier on March 6th. Yuan’s comments were very popular on the Chinese Internet, like Wei’s comments, with the video reportedly being viewed around one billion times. Furthermore, the interview was likely staged so both Yuan and Wei could deliver their comments to the news outlet. The reason is so both commissars could make the comments to the news reporter.

Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin the panda began Sino Talk in 2022 primarily to give an objective, unbiased view on China related topics as well as other issues related to the Indo-Pacific region. He spent several years studying and traveling throughout China and many countries in the Indo-Pacific region. In another life, the panda was also a U.S. Marine intelligence analyst who enjoyed bamboo MREs and drinking bourbon and soju. Indo-Pacific Division Desk Chief for Atlas News.

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