Xian H-6: China’s Nuclear Deterrent Bomber With Russian Roots

China deploys more than 270 Xian H-6 bombers, making it the largest bomber fleet in the world.
Xian H-6 - Aviadarts2018

The Chinese Xian H-6 bomber is one of China’s most iconic bombers and has been in service for decades.

But now, it has been upgraded to take on new nuclear deterrent roles, sending a clear message to potential enemies of China such as the United States, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.

The Xian H-6 Bomber

PLAAF Xian H-6M Over Changzhou
PLAAF Xian H-6M Over Changzhou by kevinmcgill. Licensed under CC by 2.0.

The Xian H-6 is a strategic bomber that was built based on a Russian bomber using Chinese technology. It has been in service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force since the 1960s and is currently one of China’s main nuclear-capable bombers.


Despite its age, the Xian H-6 remains a potent threat and is likely to continue to play a vital role in China’s military plans for the foreseeable future.

Actually, the H-6 Bomber has undergone several modernizations over the years and continues to be an essential part of China’s military arsenal.

The H-6 Bomber was built to threaten its neighboring countries

The H-6 is regularly used to threaten Taiwan. In 2000, the bomber flew close to the island on several occasions. In 2015, H-6s conducted long-range bombing raids on targets in the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands.


Also, it has been deployed to fly near the Korean and Japanese coasts, forcing these countries to be on alert – and even scramble fighters.

The H-6 Bomber is so dangerous because it is believed to be involved in China’s nuclear deterrence program, with reports suggesting that it could carry up to three nuclear warheads.

The Xian H-6 bomber specs

Xian H-6K
Xian H-6K by Andrei Shmatko. Licensed under CC by 4.0.

  • Crew: 4
  • Length: 34.8 meters (114 feet 2 inches)
  • Wingspan: 33 meters (108 feet 3 inches)
  • Height: 10.36 meters (34 feet)
  • Empty weight: 37,200 kilograms (82,012 pounds)
  • Max takeoff weight: 95,000 kilograms (209,439 pounds)
  • Maximum speed: 1,050 km/h or 650 mph
  • Cruise speed: 768 km/h; 477 mph; Match 0.75
  • Range: 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles)
  • Combat range: 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles)
  • Service ceiling: 12,800 meters (42,000 feet)

Moreover, the H-6 Bomber is equipped with a variety of different weapons, including long-range cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs.


It can also carry up to six air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs). This gives it the ability to strike targets throughout East Asia, including Taiwan and the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Additionally, it carries several guns, such as two 23 mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannons in one turret and another NR-23 cannon in the nose.

The upgraded H-6K

The H-6 Bomber was inspired by the Tupolev Tu-16, which was a copy of the American Boeing B-29 Superfortress.


Tupolev Tu-16LL Badger 05 blue
Tu-16LL by Alan Wilson. Licensed under CC by 2.0.

Now, the H-6K is the most advanced version of this bomber and is equipped with long-range cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs. It also has an updated avionics suite with a glass cockpit and an improved radar system.

As expected, it is equipped with long-range cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs.

It features a top engine that is supposed to give it a combat range of at least 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles)… And of course, it has nuclear strike capabilities in case they need to use it with one or multiple potential enemies of China, such as the US, South Korea, Taiwan, or Japan.


China is rapidly preparing to take over the United States’ place in the skies

The H-6 is one of the most important aircraft in China’s military arsenal and is likely to continue to play a key role in the country’s plans for the future.

That’s why this bomber was modernized. It is ready for a potential war with the U.S. or any other potential enemy – and China doesn’t lose a chance to show off its destructive capabilities with bombers such as the H-6 Bomber.

Featured image credit: Xian H-6 – Aviadarts2018 by Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation. Licensed under CC by 4.0.


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