US Officials Doubt China’s Stealth Bomber Can Rival American Designs

Some of the Xian H-20 artworks that have circulated online in the last few years. (Image created by The Aviationist using artworks shared on X by @RupprechtDeino)

US intel confident that China’s forthcoming long-range stealth bomber, the Xian H-20, will not match up to American B-2 or B-21 designs.

According to a Department of Defense intelligence official who briefed reporters at the Pentagon on Apr. 22, the long awaited Xian H-20 stealth bomber design is considered inferior to advanced U.S. low observable (LO) platforms, such as the 35-year old B-2 or the more modern B-21, facing significant engineering challenges in achieving similar capabilities.

“The thing with the H-20 is when you actually look at the system design, it’s probably nowhere near as good as US LO [low observable] platforms, particularly more advanced ones that we have coming down,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, according to a report by Breaking Defense‘s

While the H-20 is anticipated to serve as China’s response to American platforms like the 6th generation B-21 Raider, details about the Chinese program remain scarce due to intense state secrecy with lots of wild rumors and speculations spreading across the web.

Although a Chinese military official hinted at an imminent unveiling of the H-20 in March, the exact timeline remains uncertain, although every now and then, new renderings and artworks appear on the Chinese Internet, along with scale models possibly related to the wind tunnel testing of the stealth bomber.

Despite the potential unveiling, US officials remain skeptical about the H-20’s capabilities, suggesting that its reveal may serve more as a demonstration of military prowess than a true indication of its operational effectiveness or quantity.

“You may choose to unveil it just because they want to show that they’re a great, you know, military power. That doesn’t necessarily mean it actually delivers them the kind of capability that they would need or at the quantity that they would need,” the DoD intel official said.

When asked if the H-20 poses a concern, the DoD intelligence official downplayed its significance, replying: “Not really.”

This skepticism towards Chinese military aviation modernization echoes previous sentiments expressed by US officials, including former Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, who minimized concerns about the J-20 stealth fighter in September 2022. While acknowledging the J-20’s capability, the intelligence official emphasized that it did not fully meet China’s original parameters, suggesting limitations in its effectiveness.

The Xian H-20

Wang Wei, a member of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), provided updates on China’s long-range bomber project, the H-20, during an interview with the Hong Kong Commercial Daily following the conclusion of the second session of the 14th National Committee of the CPPCC.

The project was initially disclosed by PLA Air Force commander Ma Xiaotian in 2016, confirming its development.

Since then, official information has been scarce, with only promotional videos released by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China in 2018 and a PLA Air Force recruitment video in 2021, both depicting a large aircraft with a potential flying wing design.

Wang dismissed concerns about technical challenges, stating that all problems can be overcome by the country’s scientific researchers. He emphasized that the H-20 will soon be unveiled to the public, followed closely by its commissioning and mass production, which will significantly enhance the PLA Air Force’s capabilities, an achievement he deemed worthy of pride and excitement.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.