Boom-20 on the horizon? Chinese weapon magazine publishes imaginary picture to attract heated debate

A mysterious aircraft appears at the end of the “Great Power Takes Off” promo, which is speculated to be the Boom 20 strategic bomber. (Screenshot by Chen Yun from “The Great Power Takes Off” propaganda film)

The cover of the latest June issue of China’s weapons industry intelligence magazine “Modern Weaponry” features an imaginary picture of a new bomber with stealthy and invisible functions, prompting military fans to debate “Is the Boom-20 about to show up?” Military experts say that the Boom-20 is the last piece of the Chinese Air Force’s 20-series puzzle, and although it has not yet been “officially announced,” it is foreseeable that the Boom-20 will replace some of the missions of the Boom-6 series and strengthen the force-delivery capability between the first and second island chains. The strategic intent is clear.

Official Media: Not an official announcement, just a hypothetical picture

The latest issue of “Modern Weaponry” magazine recently published an image of a stealth strategic bomber with a classic “big flying wing” structure and an invisible function, labeled as the God of War, which has once again triggered a lot of questions among military fans about “the reappearance of the Boom-20? 20 reappear?” and “Is the Boom-20 an official announcement?” The image of the Bomber 20 has once again sparked a lively discussion among military fans about “Is the Bomber 20 official?

As early as 2016, Chinese Air Force Commander Ma Xiaotian first confirmed that the Air Force was developing a new generation of long-range bombers, speculated to be named “Boom-20”. The end of the Chinese aviation industry’s propaganda film “Great Power Takes Off” is covered with a flying-wing aircraft and the caption reads: “THE NEXT…” This whetted the appetite of military fans for the Boom-20. Later, a PLA documentary aired on CCTV mentioned that “significant progress has been made in the development of the new distant strategic bomber Boom-20”, confirming the Boom-20’s name.

This time, after the appearance and design of the suspected Bo-20 were disclosed by the media, it was criticized as a copy of the U.S. B2 stealth fighter “Copy 20”. China’s Global Times quoted an article titled “What’s the hotly-contested ‘Boom-20 design’ all about” on its official microblog on May 25, angrily denouncing the new bomber on the cover of the magazine as an “imaginary drawing” and not a “copy of the design”. “It also said that the design drawn in the picture is not at all conducive to stealth and does not conform to the current trend of “double swept back wing angle” of aircraft.

Hong Kong military expert Song Zhongping told Voice of America: “The magazine cover does not represent an official announcement, it is just a hypothetical picture, there is no way to confirm this. A lot of things that are not officially announced are things that are not true. Now there is no official data, so a lot of things are imagined out of thin air.”

Au Shiu Wai, a researcher affiliated with the Institute of Chinese Studies at the University of Malaya (Courtesy of Au Shiu Wai)

However, said Shiu-Wei Au, a researcher affiliated with the Institute of Chinese Studies at the University of Malaya, nine out of ten of China’s major military magazines have an official background, and many of them are issued by research units of the PLA or weapons production companies. Although they are not “official announcements,” they are known in military circles as “official leaks,” meaning that some information is slowly revealed to the public through magazines to generate discussion.

The Boom-20, once in service, will definitely have an impact on the regional balance in the Asia-Pacific region, and the sense of psychological threat to neighboring countries will also increase, while China is making them the benchmark of military power in the Asia-Pacific region through the aircraft carrier and the Boom-20.

The last piece of the “20 series” puzzle

In recent years, China’s “20 series” models, from the J-20 to the Yun-20 and then the Straight-20, have been unveiled and have shown the progress of China’s air force weaponry.

The Boom-20 is a weapon that the PLA has been working to complete for several years, and it is the last piece of the 20-series puzzle for the PLA Air Force, including the J-20, an anonymous fighter, and the straight-20, which mimics the excellent U.S. Black Hawk helicopter, all named after the 20. “

According to a report in the South China Morning Post on the 25th of this month, the four blueprints of the Boom-20 fighter concept revealed by Modern Arms magazine are configured with a weapons bay, two tail fins that can be adjusted at full angles, an onboard radar, stealth air intakes, and a cover of dark gray radar wave absorbing material.

Taiwan military expert Shi Hsiao-Wei said that since China has not yet made an official announcement, it is impossible to determine the authenticity of the Boom-20’s aerodynamic appearance, but if it really looks as drawn by Arms magazine, then it actually incorporates to a considerable extent the performance characteristics of the U.S. Air Force’s B2 Phantom bomber, using the flight wing as the aircraft’s aerodynamic appearance and adding its own imperfections in flight wing control. “Chinese characteristics”, such as the use of foldable or movable control surfaces, allowing it to change angles to enhance the aircraft’s lateral maneuverability.

Taiwan military expert Shih Hsiao-Wei (courtesy of Shih Hsiao-Wei)

The military expert’s claims are echoed in a monthly report on the national defense situation released in December 2018 by Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense think tank, the Institute for National Defense and Security Studies. The report said that a satellite photo exploded on the Internet at the end of 2017, showing a large aircraft with stealth characteristics appearing at an airport in western China, “confirming the existence of the Boom-20,” and that the fighter does not have a flat leading edge flying wing like the U.S. B2 stealth bomber, but rather a leading edge double swept flying wing layout with an appearance It is closer in appearance to the U.S. X47B naval stowaway drone. According to the report, “the Boom-20 is indeed a strategic bomber with Chinese characteristics. The report cites media analysis that the Boom-20 can only destroy air defense nodes and then be followed by the Boom-6K for bombing missions. In the future, the Boom-20 and the Boom-6 series will form a high-low pairing, with the Boom-6 performing low-risk missions or simply serving as a carrier for long-range missiles to carry out missions away from enemy threats.

Military expert Shi Xiaowei told Voice of America, “It is foreseeable that in the future this aircraft (the Boom-20) could replace some of the missions of the Boom-6 series bombers as one of the mainland’s tandem players in conducting precision strikes or surgical strikes against foreign countries, and this is a high possibility if and when its development is completed.”

Strengthening the projection capability of the first to second island chain

The report by Taiwan’s Institute for Defense and Security Studies cited interviews with Chinese officials by The Drive, which said the Boom-20 would have a bomb load of at least 10 tons and a range of about 5,000 miles (about 8,000 kilometers) without refueling. Russia’s Military Courier weekly website has reported that the Boom-20 could have a maximum range of 12,000 kilometers, a combat radius of 6,000 kilometers and a maximum bomb load of no less than 20 tons.

According to China Youth Daily, China’s new-generation long-range bomber has several features, including good stealth capability, intercontinental range of more than 10,000 kilometers, large bomb load for efficient and intensive assaults on targets, nuclear and conventional “nuclear and conventional” strike capabilities, and strong electronic warfare capabilities.

The Bo-20 is very similar to the U.S. Air Force’s B2 strategic bomber in both appearance and function, so it is conceivable that its functions should be quite similar to those of the B2, including long-range strike, in-flight bomb bay design, concealment, and long-range flight performance. The number of bombs is currently estimated to be 12-14, including eight Long Sword cruise missiles with a maximum range of 3,000 kilometers and long-range supersonic anti-ship missiles.

Its (Bo-20) purpose is very clear: to deny the U.S. Navy’s strategic intention to reinforce the first island chain on the west coast of the mainland or in Hawaii,” Au said. If it is on the other side of the Asian continent, it can even go to the Middle East, South Asia, and even Asia, where Beijing’s traditional interests lie, to exert its influence through the support of refueling aircraft. So we would say that with this (Boom-20), the Chinese Communist Party’s intention to target the relatively safe second island chain of U.S. bases since World War II is very, very obvious.”

According to military expert Shi Xiaowei, China’s current Boom-6 bomber does not have the ability to hide and can easily be detected from a distance by other people’s early warning systems: “With a bomber like the Boom-20, it has grown considerably in terms of hiding and aerodynamic appearance, which will allow mainland China to use its troops abroad, especially in the attack on the first and second island chains. The mission will have a much higher chance of success than in the past.”

Weaknesses in the Long-Range Strike of the Chinese Communist Party’s Military Power

However, the Boom-20 has also revealed a major weakness in the CCP’s long-range strikes. Military experts say that China’s extreme lack of overseas bases is a major problem, unlike the United States, which has many overseas possessions or air bases that can be used in conjunction with other countries, making the United States much better than China in terms of global strike and global force arrival capabilities.

Secondly, the Boom-20 is a large land-based aircraft and must be well matched with air refueling aircraft in order to perform long-range strikes. However, due to the lack of overseas bases in China, the Boom-20’s striking range is initially limited to the first or second island chain; in order to break through the second island chain, the Boom-20 does not have sufficient relay bases and cannot receive sufficient air refueling assistance.

In addition, the engine is also a persistent problem for the PLA. Military experts say that the technical level of China’s engine manufacturing is still not good enough, so whether it is a copy of the Sukai-27 fighter or a follow-up development, most of it is still borrowed from Russian technology, which will be a problem once the Chinese Communist Party cannot continuously obtain engine technology and corresponding resources from Russia. As a platform for long-range strategic strikes, the proper rate and reliability of the carrier platform itself is very important, otherwise it will not be able to meet the demand for strategic strikes in critical moments.