China is planning to carry out the flight test of an “important” aircraft, a Chinese military’s top warplane contractor has said. However, the details of the aircraft, including its model, have not been revealed yet.
Ge Heping, head of the Chinese Flight Test Establishment under the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), said the aircraft is of “crucial strategic and historic significance,” reported Global Times.
Ge reportedly made the statement at a rally held Tuesday to mobilize personnel involved in the test. Though he didn’t offer more details about the aircraft, he urged all personnel involved in its development to fully realize the extreme importance of completing this mission. His statements first appeared in Xiakedao, the new media platform of the People’s Daily overseas edition.
However, soon after Xiakedao published Ge’s statement, readers began to speculate that the aircraft in question could be the long-rumored H-20 strategic stealth bomber. Only the bomber could possess such “strategic and historic significance,” some said.
According to experts, the H-20 is a game-changer, as it is equipped with nuclear and conventional missiles and can fly at subsonic speeds. With the ability to potentially fire four powerful hypersonic stealth missiles, the H-20’s potency is in the fact that it prioritizes stealth and long-distance over speed.
Last January, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) shared footage of what most believed to be the H-20 stealth bomber. It showed a flying wing design with two intakes at the back of the airframe, similar to the U.S. Air Force’s B-2 Spirit bomber.
A few months later, a monthly magazine by state defense corporation China North Industries Group released four computer-generated pictures of the design of the H-20. Beijing, however, claimed the pictures were “fake news.”
That said, Chinese experts believe there are other aircraft too that demand equal importance. A military analyst told Global Times on conditions of anonymity that the public speculation that the new aircraft could be the H-20 “might just be an over-interpretation.”
“There are other possibilities for the unknown aircraft, including the alleged catapult-launched variant for the J-15 carrier-based fighter jet and the alleged J-35 carrier-based stealth fighter jet,” the expert said. The above-mentioned aircraft were expected to board China’s third aircraft carrier, the electromagnetic catapult-equipped Fujian, which “surely does have strategic and historic significance.”