China’s military recently deployed an upgraded strategic bomber that will carry the military’s new long-range land attack cruise missile, capable of attacking Hawaii and Guam, according to a draft congressional report.
The Oct. 8 draft of the forthcoming report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission also reveals that China has developed a new armed drone nearly identical to U.S. military’s Reaper. The Chinese missile-firing drone likely was developed through Chinese cyber espionage against U.S. defense contractors.
The report highlights a rapidly modernizing Chinese military that includes large numbers of new weapons and new warfighting techniques, including attack capabilities in space and cyberspace.
“PLA modernization is on track to alter the security balance in Asia over the next five to 10 years, challenging decades of U.S. military preeminence,” the report concludes.
On the bomber, the People’s Liberation Army in June accepted the first of 15 new Hongzha-6K, or H-6K, bombers. The bomber is based on a late 1950s Soviet design but has an extended range. However, its long-range cruise missile is new.
The report said the H-6K, also known as “Zhan Shen” or God of War, “can carry China’s new long-range land-attack cruise missile (LACM).”
“The bomber/LACM weapon system provides the PLA Air Force with the ability to conduct conventional strikes against regional targets throughout the western Pacific, including U.S. facilities in Guam,” the report said.
Guam is being built up by the U.S. military as a key strategic military hub as part of the new “pivot” strategy of realigning forces toward Asia.
The report said China’s new land-attack missile can be equipped with a nuclear warhead. However, so far there is no confirmation that the new missile is armed with nuclear warheads.
The final commission report will be released Nov. 20 and a commission spokesman said some of the late draft’s elements could be changed. A copy of the draft was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
China last month disclosed for the first time video of the Changjian-10, or CJ-10, land-attack cruise missile carried by the new bomber. The H-6K carries up to six of the missiles.
The Chinese are also developing a nuclear-capable variant known as the CJ-20 that would be deployed on the H-6K.
Rick Fisher, a Chinese military expert with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said analysts disagree with the commission assessment that the new bomber is likely to be limited to non-nuclear cruise missiles.
“In 2012 Russia’s former Rocket Forces chief of staff retired General Victor Yesin explicitly warned that some of Chinese ground and air launched DH-10 cruise missiles are nuclear armed. China is very likely developing multiple new long-range bombers to succeed the H-6K,” Fisher said. The CJ-10 is based on the DH-10.
Chinese National Defense University military expert Ge Lide stated in a China state television interview Oct. 18 that the CJ-10 is “China’s first sophisticated and cutting-edge precision weapon system capable of long-range precision strikes.”
“It is also a key member of the land-launched and air-launched long-range cruise missile family,” he said.
The missile uses China’s Beidou satellite navigation system for guidance and has a range of up to 1,500 miles.
China can strike targets in all coastal waters within an area known as the “first-island chain,” a string of islands close to China’s eastern and southern coast, with the bomber-cruise missile combination.
The new H-6Ks are believed by military experts to be a stop-gap measure for the Chinese military. The PLA is also building a new long-range bomber with a range of up to 7,500 miles.
The new bomber is said to be in development and will follow production of China’s first domestic air transport aircraft, the Y-20.
China is working to develop its aircraft engine capabilities, currently a major shortcoming of its jet aircraft programs.
A recent Chinese state-controlled press report from Hong Kong stated, “China’s long-range strategic bombers could cover the main strategic support points of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region.”
The publication Kanwa Defense Review reported in August that the new bomber is capable of hitting targets throughout the western and central Pacific, including Hawaii. Other potential targets include Singapore, central India and Russia.
According to Kanwa, the upgraded jet is powered by Russian jet engines that can increase its range up to 5,500 miles.
The H-6K strategic bomber also would bolster China’s extensive missile forces in any future conflict with the United States.
On China’s development of a new armed drone, the commission report said China unveiled in November 2012 at an international arms show its new Wing Loong missile-equipped unmanned aerial vehicle, built by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China.
China is negotiating with five or six nations in Asia and Africa who are interested in purchasing the drone.
The report said the Wing Loong closely resembles the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper, a major attack drone.
The similarities have led analysts to speculate, “Chinese espionage may have contributed to the Wing Loong’s development.”
“Furthermore, U.S. cyber security company FireEye in September 2013 exposed an extensive PLA cyber espionage campaign targeting top aerospace and defense firms for information on U.S. drone technology,” the report said. “FireEye attributed the campaign to a cyber threat group known as ‘Comment Group,’ which U.S. cyber security company Mandiant has linked to the 2nd Bureau of the PLA General Staff Department’s Third Department.”
The reports suggest cyber attacks from China played a role in the design of the new Chinese attack drone.
“China’s military modernization presents significant challenges to U.S. security interests in Asia,” the report said.