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China Practices The Long Reach
by James Dunnigan
October 10, 2010

China used a recent joint (with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan) anti-terrorism exercise in Kazakhstan to practice long range bombing. Four H-6H bombers and two J-10 fighters, plus an aerial tanker and an AWACS radar aircraft were used. The tanker wasn't really needed, but the practice with aerial refueling in such a long range air strike was. China has been practicing these long range strikes for over a decade, but mostly using navy H-6s to attack ships far at sea. The H-6H version is modified to just carry cruise missiles, and not internal loads of bombs.

The H-6 is a Chinese copy of the Russian Tu-16, which is a 1950s era design that has been upgraded considerably by the Chinese. The H6 is a large aircraft, with a max weight of 79 tons and max payload of nine tons. It has a crew of four and an operating range of about 600 kilometers. This aircraft is used to carry the CJ-10 and C201 missiles, as well as bombs.

The J-10 is the first modern jet fighter designed and built in China. The aircraft is an attempt to create a modern fighter-bomber that could compete with foreign designs. The experiment was not completely successful. Work on the J-10 began over twenty years ago, in an attempt to develop an aircraft that could compete with the Russian MiG-29s and Su-27s, and the American F-16. But the first prototype did not fly until 1998. There were problems, and it wasn't until 2000 that the basic design flaws were fixed. By 2002, nine prototypes had been built, and flight testing was going forward to find, and fix, hundreds of smaller problems. It was a great learning experience for Chinese engineers, but it was becoming apparent that the J-10 was not going to be competitive with the Su-27s/30s China was buying from Russia. The J-10 looks something like the American F-16, and weighs about the same (19 tons). Like the F-16, and unlike the Su-27, the J-10 has only one engine.


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