Why build one stealth bomber when two would be better? That is likely the thinking behind China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s current strategy. It has released a bit of information on its Xian H-20 stealth bomber, which seems to be similar to the U.S. Air Force’s B-2 Spirit in form and function—and resembles the iconic “flying wing” that one almost expects with stealth aircraft.
This has included a viral marketing campaign that almost resembles a sizzle reel for an upcoming Hollywood blockbuster. It is also likely that the PLAAF could officially debut the aircraft at its Zhuhai Airshow. Putting a stealth aircraft in such a spotlight would seem in stark contrast to its mission of not being seen, but perhaps that is why so little is known about the “other” stealth aircraft that could be in the works.
This is the JH-XX, a rival stealth bomber concept proposed by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, which may have been passed over in favor of the longer-range H-20. However, as recent reports have suggested the H-20 may not completely live up to the expectations so it may make sense that Beijing would want to hedge its bet with a second stealth aircraft.
From what little has been seen of the JH-XX stealth fighter/bomber, it seems that unlike the flying wing concept this would be a more traditional looking aircraft that could be an evolution of the Russian Flanker and Chinese J-31 stealth fighter; aircraft for which Shenyang currently produces. Hence it could be more of an evolutionary approach to a stealth aircraft rather than a truly revolutionary one.
As The National Interest has previously reported, this could be a balance of low-detectability features against speed and limited dogfighting abilities. That could be a fair trade-off given that if detected, the aircraft might need to defend itself in potentially hostile skies especially as the aircraft could be more “regionally-focused” than a long-range aircraft.