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China's indigenous bomber program

This is a discussion on China's indigenous bomber program within the Air Force forums, part of the China Defense & Military category; Current PLAAF and PLANAF bomber fleet is comprised of old H6 aircraft, we all know that. No matter how useful ...

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    Totoro is offline Senior Member
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    China's indigenous bomber program

    Current PLAAF and PLANAF bomber fleet is comprised of old H6 aircraft, we all know that. No matter how useful those planes are, fact is that they all have a limited lifespan, and after all these decades they're already quite used. Also, fact of the matter is they're old tech, offering sort of abysmal performace when compared to a modern day bomber. So, it is obvious china wants to replace them with new planes, sooner or later.

    In the short term, buying foreign bombers does have its advantages and will probably be done. But looking at the problem more long term, with China's continued economic and technological growth and also having in mind that dependance on other party's tech/supplies can be risky - it is obvious china will some day go for it's own, indigenously designed and built bomber aircraft.

    So far everything seems clear, somethign i'd hope most of you would agree on with me. Now i'll proceed with my private view on the course that such a bomber developtment program should take.

    I think it would be a mistake to go for a high tech, pushing the envelope plane, even in chinese terms. The much talked about j-xx plane programme is pretty much that - it seems to be designed as a giant leap in terms of abilities and tech that is required to pull all that off. Such approach takes literally decades and while in the end it may supply you with tremendous plane, it also means you have those two or more decades worth of risk not having any significant improvements in your abilities.

    So i suggest this: Pick a design route that shows most promise and room for improvement and start small. In this case, designing a bomber, i hope china goes with a blended/flying wing design. Of course, making a B2 copy would pretty much be the equivalent of 20 or more year development process. So why not start with older and tried out design that is known for a fact to work well? I am talking something not unlike the old british avro vulcan bomber.

    Perhaps with less of delta and bit more of a classical swept wing, bigger wingspan and less of a protruding nose section. Classical T shaped tail section can remain if no horizonal tail surfaces proves too much of a challenge. Remember, point is to keep it simple. Use mostly off the shelf tech, engines that are already available, materials that are available (meaning not more composites than j10 has, for example), etc. Even with such an approach, the leap in capabilities over the H6 bomber would be huge.

    Development time would be short, i'm thinking just years, development cost fairly low. Goal would be to make a limited production run and start testing the final product. Perhaps like 10-12 aircraft would enter PLAAF and be used to gain knowledge, offer new ideas in design from the usage, just evaluate the plane in the best way possible - by using it.

    Of course, with the start of production of first generation bomber, development would not stop. On the contrary. Various improvement would be made, very likely helped by the input of actual service of first gen bomber. During this process foreign bought bombers could and probably would also be used, actually they'd form the majority of the force until the indigenous bomber program matures.

    Every 6-8 years an improved design could/would be brought to manufacture, every incarnation featuring better tech. stronger engines, more composites, better avionics suite, changes on the outer design itself - aiming at getting rid of the classic style tail, first perhaps just the vertical stabilizator in the second generation, then maybe smaller twin stabilizators aiming for more stealth in third generation, then no tail surfaces at all in fourth.

    Of course goals put in front of the program would be bigger, more stealth, more payload, bigger range. But it'd all be in relatively small increments. First generation could for example carry 12 tons to japan and back without refuelling, third generation could do the same to guam. last generation should be able to be a true intercontinental bomber.

    Eventually, after some 18-24 years there china would/could posess a stealthy flying wing plane with impressive abilities. Its steady development would be more certain than one huge leapfrog discussed in the beginning of this post, and the final result would most probably be superior too, since there are decade(s) of actual experience behind this continuously evolving design. Just like the US... they couldn't have built the B2 like it is now without first building the stratofortress, the hustler, the aardvark, nighthawk, lancer before it. Most importantly, during those 18-24 years there would be bombers to count on. Not just the previously bought foreign ones, but the dozen or so first gen indigenous ones, further dozen second gen, another dozen third gen and so on. Small series, small batches. Not unlike the incremental improvements that PLAN is getting on their small (usually two ships per generation) batches of new vessels.

    Since speed and range are on a certain level mutually exclusive, long term program like this would produce a high subsonic bomber, again just like B2. I am however thinking that any sort of conflict in the early years, when china still doesnt have a major projection of power beyond its borders, could benefit more from speed than range. Therefore i would suggest that the foreign bought bombers be supersonic, not unlike commonly suggested su-34 and backfire (backfires maximum range would probably not be used anyway, so good deal of the time in air the plane could use its great max speed, a very useful thing in hit and run raids china would most probably be involved in any kind of pre 2030 war against a strong enemy)

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    MIGleader's Avatar
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    Re: China's indigenous bomber program

    so are you leaning towards a b-52 style aircraft or a b-1 style aircraft? personally, the b-1 style offers more perforamnce. speed is more important to the attack role, although its useless for evasion. stealth is a must have.
    the solution: a tu-22 force purchased from russia, custom tailored to the plans and plaafs needs. new attack and targeting systems, newer weapon carrying abilites, upgraded avionics and navigation, and composite construction for rcs reduction. a coat of ram can be applied. the tu-22 clearly doesnt have much of a future with the russian af, so why not with china? the refuel probe can be deleted, as its not needed. it also males some more distant neighbors feel safe.

    the reason for this is that an indegedous programm may take too long. pioneering swing-wing technology and the engienes should take years.

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    Re: China's indigenous bomber program

    Maybe we can get the swing-wing and engine tech from EADS as well as Russia once the embargo is lifted?

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    Re: China's indigenous bomber program

    Nah. The bomber is going more and more out of fashion as the large strike fighters and fighter bombers take their jobs.

    I think purchasing Tu-22Ms and then replacing their radar and systems to China's missiles are the best way out.

    But if you want to go indigenious, I suggest start designing a large multipurpose platform. As bombers become a thing of the past, launching not much but JDAMs and ALCMs, a large multipurpose platform that becomes a bomber can also be modified and be built into planes of other purposes, like EW, AWACS, etc.

    I want Asia on my front porch and America as my backyard.
    Disclaimer: By America, I meant the Continent. And yes, I know Asian homes have neither a backyard nor a porch in the American sense.

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    Totoro is offline Senior Member
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    Re: China's indigenous bomber program

    I am not leaning towards either b52 or b1 style bomber. if anything, it'd be closest to b2. I consider swing wing to be a thing of a past, especially for long range intercontinental missions. Plus, its rather uncompatible with lowering the RCS, an immobile blended wing design will always be more stealthy than swing wing one.

    And i agree with sumdud, it'd also be multifunctional. larger plane like a bomber can store larger and more powerful radars. I didnt mention it in the first post but it seems only natural to be for such plane to sport a very wide arc front radar and a tail radar, covering more or less 360 deg. Also, being stealthy, itd be rather good platform to launch very heavy ultra long AAMs, thatd otherwise be hard to be installed on j10 size planes. Basically, the big advantage is size. Of course it should be modular and be able to serve as second-tier awacs, ECM platform, long range awacs killer, cruise missile/ satellite killer launch platform, even carpet bombing platform if seen fit.

    tu22m is a fine plane but whole point is to have china work on its own designs and tech. If it keeps buying other party's equipment it will never be able to get on par with the others, it will always b at least half a step behind. Not to mention tech level in general would be lower, tech that could perhaps be used in various other fields. Again, thats the half of it - not just to have a bomber - but to learn and get smarter from the process of making it.

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    Re: China's indigenous bomber program

    You know how expensive the B2 is?!?! About $2 billion!! It's expensive because of its stealthy design, and not only does it sacrifice money for that, it also sacrifices speed.

    Swing wing bombers are designed for speed. Bombers can't fly fast unless their wings are more sweeped, unlike the B2, but if their wings are sweeped they will have difficulty during takeoff and landing, that's why variable geometry wings are designed, so that they can have less sweep and more lift during takeoff/landing.

    One of the only reasons you would not use variable geometry winged bombers nowdays is if you want to make them stealthy, but if you want to go into stealth that's going to cost you billions, China doesn't have that kind of money to spare on this kind of stuff.

    But anyway, I agree with Sumdud. Bombers are going to be obsolete one day. One of the reasons bombers were designed in the past was because bombs were way inaccurate and have little explosive power, so the idea was to drop tons of them. Now, as technology advances, missiles are becoming faster, more accurate, and have more powerful warheads. Two JH-7s with total 8 YJ-82Ks is much better than some H-X bomber carrying say 20. They're much smaller and harder to detect than a huge bomber (unless you make it a stealth bomber which would cost billions like I mentioned before)

    Bombers are also sitting ducks in the air, unlike fighter-bombers which can turn away faster and run, or defend themselves if needed.

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    Re: China's indigenous bomber program

    Quote Originally Posted by Wingman
    You know how expensive the B2 is?!?! About $2 billion!! It's expensive because of its stealthy design, and not only does it sacrifice money for that, it also sacrifices speed.

    Swing wing bombers are designed for speed. Bombers can't fly fast unless their wings are more sweeped, unlike the B2, but if their wings are sweeped they will have difficulty during takeoff and landing, that's why variable geometry wings are designed, so that they can have less sweep and more lift during takeoff/landing.

    One of the only reasons you would not use variable geometry winged bombers nowdays is if you want to make them stealthy, but if you want to go into stealth that's going to cost you billions, China doesn't have that kind of money to spare on this kind of stuff.

    But anyway, I agree with Sumdud. Bombers are going to be obsolete one day. One of the reasons bombers were designed in the past was because bombs were way inaccurate and have little explosive power, so the idea was to drop tons of them. Now, as technology advances, missiles are becoming faster, more accurate, and have more powerful warheads. Two JH-7s with total 8 YJ-82Ks is much better than some H-X bomber carrying say 20. They're much smaller and harder to detect than a huge bomber (unless you make it a stealth bomber which would cost billions like I mentioned before)

    Bombers are also sitting ducks in the air, unlike fighter-bombers which can turn away faster and run, or defend themselves if needed.
    I beleive it is also a simple mathmatical strategy. For example u have a bomber carrying 20 missiles but if this bomber gets shot down u loose all 20 missiles. But if u have 3 JH-7 carrying 8 missiles each, the enemy will have more targets (the JH-7) to worry about and if one gets shot down u still have some missiles left to do the job.
    Perhaps that maybe one of the reasons why the PLAN is not building any cruiser size warships.
    But isn't the advantage of a strategic bomber is that it has a very long flying range?

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    Totoro is offline Senior Member
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    Re: China's indigenous bomber program

    Of course china wouldn't spend 2 billion or 1 billion or even half a billion per plane. I was refering to the design and overall capabilities coming from that design when i used B2 as a good way to go. Flying wing (like b2 is) is the way to go. It absolutely can not be beat when it comes to flight efficiency. You get longer range, bigger payload, and the shape itself is inherently more stealthy than b52 type or b1 type plane.

    Bombers will be with us for a long time. Even with US, when UCAVs come into service, i am confident there will one day be a large bomber UCAV for intercontinental missions. I already said it - it's all about size. It is more efficient to have a large aircraft (providing you can defend it) for deep strike missions.

    What if you wanna fire off 200 antiship missiles at a target? do you wanna coordinate 100 j7a planes from various airfields, with it tyign up your ground attack forces, use up tons us fuel - or do you want to use 20 bombers for the very same mission, save loads of fuel, be stealthier about it? Again, i am not saying chinese bomber would be stealthy like B2 is today, but a slick flying wing design with internal weapons bay is inherently stealthier than j7 type plane with externally carried weapons.

    And what happens if enemy keeps pounding you from a base 5 thousand km away? where your attack aircraft even when launching stand off missiles cant reach? or will you get in range with your bombers and take care of the target?

    While i agree bombers are more or less through as delivery systems for short range bombs, supporting the ground troops, they still cant be beat in range, payload and thefore efficiency. For strategic deep strikes they are the way to go, complementing the cruise missiles.

    Finally, the swing wing issue. Its a coin with two sides. You could say a straight wing sacrifices speed but you can also say that swept wing sacrifices range. Or, let me be more clear, it sacrifices fuel efficiency. It is very simple. if you want a bomber with short to medium range - go for swing wing design. If you want an intercontinental one - less swept wing and moderate speed is the most economic and reasonable choice. Backfire, lancer, tu160, they still fly most of their missions with more straight wing. And a swing wing system is not only bad for RCS but it is heavy and takes up space.

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    Re: China's indigenous bomber program

    I think China should focus more on strike bombers like the su-34. Speed is isential to aircraft today because of the advanced AA systems. I belive carpet bombers are a thing of the past.

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    Re: China's indigenous bomber program

    Quote Originally Posted by Totoro
    Of course china wouldn't spend 2 billion or 1 billion or even half a billion per plane. I was refering to the design and overall capabilities coming from that design when i used B2 as a good way to go. Flying wing (like b2 is) is the way to go.
    That's one of the reasons why the B2 is so expensive! Flying wings are a radical design and are very difficult and expensive to develop and test.
    You could say a straight wing sacrifices speed but you can also say that swept wing sacrifices range. Or, let me be more clear, it sacrifices fuel efficiency. It is very simple. if you want a bomber with short to medium range - go for swing wing design. If you want an intercontinental one - less swept wing and moderate speed is the most economic and reasonable choice. Backfire, lancer, tu160, they still fly most of their missions with more straight wing. And a swing wing system is not only bad for RCS but it is heavy and takes up space.
    Think of it as this way. Take your fat slow non-swing wing bomber and give it the ability to sweep its wings. It gains the ability to fly faster and everything else stays essentially the same. No it won't lose lift because higher speed produces higher lift. No it won't be able to carry less payload because it won't lose lift. No it won't lose fuel efficiency, in fact it will gain fuel efficiency because of lower drag!! No it won't become less stealthy (at least not by much). Unless you have a multi-billion-dollar-flying-wing-stealth-bomber it doesn't make any difference if you lose a little bit of stealth. It does make a lot of difference if your bomber slow, because that makes it a lot more vulnerable. Most swing-wing bombers can fly at Mach 2, enough to outrun fighters and get the hell back home in one piece.

    As for one big bomber vs. multiple smaller fighter-bombers, that one big bomber is going to be a lot less survivable than the fighter-bombers. If a missile comes at you from long range, you need to turn away from it and run. Bombers need like half a minute to do just that, and by that time they're dead. Fighter-bombers are more manoeuvrable and therefore can avoid missiles more easily.

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    Totoro is offline Senior Member
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    Re: China's indigenous bomber program

    Quote Originally Posted by Wingman
    That's one of the reasons why the B2 is so expensive! Flying wings are a radical design and are very difficult and expensive to develop and test.
    One of the reasons, yes. But by far not the biggest reason. Just like US did, one has to take several steps to get to true flying wing. If you read my initial post here you will see i proposed a blended wing desing, something akin to avro vulcan, as a first step. First flying wings were expensive cause they were exactly that - first. It is not a revolutionary tech anymore and it will be even less so in 20 - 25 years by which time the blended wing design would fully give way to a true flying wing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wingman
    Think of it as this way. Take your fat slow non-swing wing bomber and give it the ability to sweep its wings. It gains the ability to fly faster and everything else stays essentially the same.
    I don't agree. Flying wing is thicker and using swing wing on it would be a huge undertaking. The space lost and weight waisted would be tremendous. And stealth would suffer more than you think. One of the big reasons why f117 and b2 have lowered RCS is cause they have a relatively smooth, flat undersides, without any gaps in the airframe. Of course, for that to be maximized, they fly high, so the enemy large radar's beams come from a lower angle.


    Quote Originally Posted by Wingman
    No it won't lose lift because higher speed produces higher lift. No it won't be able to carry less payload because it won't lose lift. No it won't lose fuel efficiency, in fact it will gain fuel efficiency because of lower drag!!
    Once again, higher speed is used a small portion of the time in long range missions. All the swing wing bombers cruise under the speed of sound, with wings swept more forward. If they went faster, drag would increase immensely and fuel efficiency would drop sharply. At same subsonic speed, a more conventional fuselage with swept wing design, compared to a flying wing of same wingspan suffers more drag. Only when going at higher speeds does drag increase more for the thicker flying wing design then for the more conventional design. Also, it is not important if you can get lift for 200 tons at speed of mach 2, what is important is what lift you can get at take off speed, or at best, at in-air-refualling speed. Keep in mind air density also affects lift, the higher you go, less lift you will get. So basically at a given high altitude you have to either go fast or have a wing design that will give you more lift. And no, less air density doesnt give enough of a drag relief to make it worthy to fly fast, otherwise you'd have tu160, tu22, lancer etc cruise at 2 mach normally, 100% of their flight time.


    Quote Originally Posted by Wingman
    No it won't become less stealthy (at least not by much). Unless you have a multi-billion-dollar-flying-wing-stealth-bomber it doesn't make any difference if you lose a little bit of stealth.
    You say it wont lower the RCS by much, i say it will. I guess we disagree on that one beyond any way to reason with each other. Besides, every little bit of stealth helps. Of course it would be silly to embark on a expensive maximize-the-stealth project like B2 was back in the 80s, but as stealth tech is more common and more known, it does get cheaper to apply it. So while the chinese bomber might be have like 150% of B2s RCS, it will have that for 10% of the price.


    Quote Originally Posted by Wingman
    It does make a lot of difference if your bomber slow, because that makes it a lot more vulnerable. Most swing-wing bombers can fly at Mach 2, enough to outrun fighters and get the hell back home in one piece.
    It makes it more vulnerable, yes. Which is why i also said it wouldnt hurt to make it a multi purpose platform. Sure, in a dogfight it wouldn't have a chance but it could easely be fitten with long rang BVR missiles. With it being more stealthy than attacking fighter planes - it'd have a fair chance. And of course im not proposing to go over the target to drop bombs. It would be more of a stand off weapon launch platform. When a day comes that its economically and technically feasible to use just cruise missiles to go around the world - bombers will cease to exist. Until that time comes, having a bomber carry shorter range cruise missiles is the way to go.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wingman
    As for one big bomber vs. multiple smaller fighter-bombers, that one big bomber is going to be a lot less survivable than the fighter-bombers. If a missile comes at you from long range, you need to turn away from it and run. Bombers need like half a minute to do just that, and by that time they're dead. Fighter-bombers are more manoeuvrable and therefore can avoid missiles more easily.
    stealth adds to survivability. stealth requires internal stores. internal stores require lots of space. lots of space require a large airplane. large airplane carrying ground attack missiles is called a bomber. But thats even a secondary point. Main point for a bomber is range. how will you get your small-ish fighter bomber to fly half around the world? Of course if your doing a short range mission youll use attack planes. But the bomber remains the only option for intercontinental missions. Notice how i said getting the su34 would be a good idea for china as it just starts developing the bombers? its cause right now china has less need for intercontinental strikes. but that may change with time and as that need rises, it is only smart to have a long range bomber developed.

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    Su-34 is offline New Member
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    Re: China's indigenous bomber program

    A Strategic Bomber has one advantage that tactical bombers do not have. A strategic bomber is larger, allowing it to carry more cruise missiles than tactical bombers. A strategic bomber can be called an "LACM carrier". Ground Launched Cruise Missiles are good, but the long flight range of a SB indirectly extends the range of a cruise missile. or example, if PLAAF launches LACMs from their SBs over the Pacific Ocean, it can cover more range than LACMs fired from Chinese coasts.

    Although 093 SSN carries LACMs, it does not hurt for China to have a variety of platforms to launch LACMs, right?

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    Re: China's indigenous bomber program

    Quote Originally Posted by Totoro
    I don't agree. Flying wing is thicker and using swing wing on it would be a huge undertaking.
    I'm talking about swing-wing conventional design bombers vs non-swing wing conventional design bombers. Not flying wings. Of course flying wings can't have swing-wings, that'd be really hard to design.
    If they went faster, drag would increase immensely and fuel efficiency would drop sharply.
    That's what the swing-wings are there for: you sweep them! Yes that would cause a temporary loss in lift but as they increase in speed due to the reduced drag, they recover that lift. The result is a higher cruise speed than a non-swing wing bomber which is incapable of sweeping its wings to reduce drag
    Besides, every little bit of stealth helps.
    I don't think it will. Unless you want to spend a lot of money reasearching stealth for a B2 type bomber it really doesn't make much difference whether you have a non-stealthy flying wing desgin or non-stealthy convential design. If your non-stealthy convential design can be detected by, say an AESA radar at 150km, and a non-stealthy flying wing at 100km, it still won't be any good. It's only useful if you can push its detectability to way under the range of enemy missiles, say 50km for the AMRAAM, and that's hard and expensive, espeicially for a bomber because they're usually quite huge and easily detectable. Take the F-22 for example, it's tiny compared to a bomber and it can fly over SAMs at high altitude undetected. But as soon as it opens its weapons bay, it can be spotted by radar from quite a distance away. Every little part sticking out just totally kills your stealth.
    It makes it more vulnerable, yes. Which is why i also said it wouldnt hurt to make it a multi purpose platform. Sure, in a dogfight it wouldn't have a chance but it could easely be fitten with long rang BVR missiles.
    That beats the whole point of having stealth on a bomber! If a bomber can fire AAMs it must have an AA radar and be able to search and lock on to enemy fighters, which would in turn give it away. No there won't be AWACS support in a deep strike mission.

    How about a scenario: bomb a target 5000km away protected by fighters flying CAP. No fighter/AWACS support because it's too far.
    B2 bomber: flys in, destroys target, flys away without being detected
    Swing wing high speed bomber: cruises to within ~300km to target, then accelerate to Mach 2. Fighters detects bomber but could not reach within AAM range before bomber releases cruise missiles at about 150km, turns around, and flys away at Mach 2
    Non-stealth flying wing bomber: two possibilities - a) does not reach cruise missile range before being intercepted by fighters. b) manages to stay undetected until it launches cruise missiles, then tries to run away from fighters but gets intercepted due to low speed
    Last edited by Wingman; 01-13-2006 at 02:39 PM.

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    Re: China's indigenous bomber program

    My opinion:

    1. Variable Wing Geometry
    2. Internal Bay
    3. Two Al-31 size engines
    4. Low Drag design

    Basically an enlarged Su-24

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    Re: China's indigenous bomber program

    enlarged? the su-24 does not have an internal weapons bay. well, you cant simply enlarge an existing attacker to be a bomber. none of todays strategic bombers were developed from fighters. the plaaf will have to start from scratch, somethig its not rather good at.

    how about something like the xb-70? super long range, speed, and armament. of course, certain problems will have to rectified, such as the cost issue. ecm may also be required for survival in todays worl of sams.

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