According to the latest issue of Kanwa Defense Review, a Canada-based publication specializing in defense affairs and weapons technology, a meeting held recently by the military defined the PLA air force as a "strategic force", a title previously monopolized by the PLA Second Artillery Corps, the country's de facto strategic missile force. Officers attending the meeting reportedly urged the PLA air force to prioritize the development of a long-range strategic bomber.
The Chinese military defines a long-range strategic bomber as one that can carry more than 10 tonnes of air-to-ground munitions and with a minimum range of 8,000 kilometres (5,000 miles) without refuelling, the China Daily said.
Chinese defence technology magazine Aerospace Knowledge said in a series of articles last month that China needs a long-range stealth bomber, China Daily said.
China is wanting to get B-1 B and TU160 style supersonic long range bomber technology.
Maximum speed US B-1 B:
At altitude: Mach 1.25 (721 kn or 830 mph or 1,335 km/h) at 50,000 ft or 15,000 m altitude
At low level: Mach 0.92 (700 mph or 1,100 km/h) at 200–500 ft or 61–152 m altitude
Range: 6,478 nmi (7,455 mi; 11,997 km)
Entering service in 1987, the Tu-160 was the last strategic bomber designed for the Soviet Union. The Long Range Aviation branch of the Russian Air Force has 16 aircraft with fewer in active use. The Tu-160 active fleet has been undergoing upgrades to electronics systems since the early 2000s. The Tu-160M modernisation programme has begun with the first new updated aircraft delivered in December 2014
The last major US bomber was the B2 launched in 1997.
The US is workin on a Next-Generation Bomber and a United States 2037 Bomber. A future stealth bomber project, with a goal of least complementing, or supplanting a portion or all of the current B-52 and B-1 fleet. A deployment time frame goal of 2018 has been established
United States 2037 Bomber : A stealth, supersonic, long-range, heavy-payload, possibly unmanned strategic bomber project to replace the B-52 Stratofortress, with a deployment time frame goal of 2037.
Russia is working on the PAK DA.
Attendees at the meeting reached a consensus that the long-range strategic bomber is of great significance to the Chinese military because it will enable the air force to strike a second "island chain" to deny foreign military intervention in case of an emergency or conflict, the Kanwa report said.
PLA military theorists conceive of two island chains as forming a geographic basis for China's maritime defensive perimeter. The precise boundaries of these chains have never been officially defined, but by commonly accepted definitions, the first chain refers to a series of islands that stretch from Japan in the north to Taiwan and the Philippines to the south. The second chain runs from the north at the Bonin Islands and moves southward through the Marianas and the Caroline Islands.
Kanwa assumes that the design for the heavy bomber will soon unfold, after the completion of the Y-20 heavy airlifter, which is expected in one to two years.
Wu Guohui, a military equipment researcher at PLA National Defense University, said in October 2013 that large bombers were once ignored by air powers because they were deemed as having poor survivability. However, the United States, Russia and China have acknowledged the advantages of stealth bombers. They can carry out nuclear strikes as well as long-distance precision bombing by conventional weapons, and can be used repeatedly, meaning they are more cost-efficient and agile than a non-reusable ground-to-ground missile.
"The U.S. has decided to invest $1.2 billion every year to develop its second-generation long-range stealth bomber based on its Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit, while Russia is upgrading its current bombers and developing a new stealth bomber," he said. "China still lags behind in this field, so we should develop our own long-range bomber."
Despite some foreign military analysts' assessment of China as one of the three air powers after the U.S. and Russia that still maintain strategic bombers, the PLA air force must be fully aware that its bomber fleet is much weaker compared with its counterparts in the U.S. and Russia, because it only has an unknown number of H-6 bombers, which are based on the Soviet-era Tu-16 Badger, designed in the 1950s and retired by Russia in the early 1990s, military observers said.
The U.S. Strategic Command now has the Boeing B-52, the Rockwell B-1 and the super-powerful Northrop Grumman B-2, while Russia's Long Range Aviation Command owns the Tupolev Tu-160, Tu-95 and T-22M.
According to Western aviation sources, Aviation Industry Corp of China has continued to upgrade the H-6 with the latest avionics equipment and new materials, and has developed a family of variants that can conduct various tasks, including aerial refueling and reconnaissance. However, the aircraft's antiquated structure, together with old engines, leaves it incapable of performing long-range operations or flying deep into enemy territory to deploy ordnance.
China had repeatedly tried to get technical intelligence of the Soviet-era supersonic strategic bomber Tu-22M3 Backfire C, or even an actual plane from the eastern European nation