A Hypersonic Glider for China’s H-6N?

The new Chinese bomber is designed for the air-launch of large ballistic missiles, perhaps with hypersonic gliders, writes Gabriele Molinelli for Portale Difesa.

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Interesting images came from China of one of the new H-6N bombers with, a large air-launched ballistic missile at the ventral recess, which bears important similarities to the DF-17 hypersonic weapon system. The latter is a ballistic missile launched from the ground and used as a vector to transport a hypersonic DF-ZF glider capable of speeds higher than Mach 5.

The photos and videos are not of sufficient quality for a final evaluation. They were filmed by spotters in the vicinity of the Neixiang airbase, a refurbished and expanded base since 2017, featuring a gigantic underground sheltered structure with entrances of 36 meters each, just enough for H-6 series bombers. The structure, carved into the rock and carefully designed to reduce vulnerability to missile attacks, has led some to believe that the base could also be used for the nuclear deterrence mission.

There is still no certainty about the unit operating from Neixiang, but according to observers, it would be the 106th Brigade, a unit for which the "new" H-6N bombers are believed to be destined. The latter was in fact revealed only in October 2019, on the occasion of the parade for the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. It is another variant of the H-6, the name of the Chinese derivative of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 BADGER, produced by Xi'an Aircraft International Corporation. The H-6Ns had immediately generated interest due to the distinctive front probe for in-flight refueling and, above all, for the elimination of the bomb bay, replaced by an aerodynamic recess intended for the semi-conformal transport of large missiles or drones.

These are the first images showing a load at the ventral recess, and obviously, the adaptation of the DF-17 for aviation launch could be of interest to the Armed Forces of Beijing. However, it could also be a completely different system, hypersonic or not: the first reports spoke for example of an air-launched derivative of the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, presumed to be named CH-AS-X-13.

The US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), represented by its director, Major General Robert Ashley, has reported since 2017 the news of the development by the Chinese side of 2 air-launched ballistic missiles, of which at least one probably with both conventional and nuclear capabilities. These systems could constitute the mission of the mysterious 106th Brigade and its special bombers.

Ballistic missiles and hypersonic gliders launched by a bomber capable of being refueled in flight would represent a new, serious threat to US bases and aircraft carriers in the Pacific in the "second island chain" area, thus including Guam, if not far beyond. that imaginary border.

Gabriele Molinelli - Portale Difesa

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