The PLAAF has been modifying a small number of the H-6s to carry a new anti-ship missile, possibly a variant of the DF-21D ballistic anti-ship missile. That could pose a serious danger to the U.S. Navy in the western Pacific.
Here’s What You Need to Remember: The H-6Ks could be armed with hypersonic weapons, which could be used against targets upwards of 3,000 km (1,864 miles) away.
Last September the China's People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) posted a video via its Weibo social media account that showed a simulated attack on the U.S. military base on Guam. Titled "The god of war H-6K goes on the Attack!," the 15-second video, which was noted for its high production values and even its use of dramatic music, featured a Chinese heavy bomber attacking Andersen Air Force Base.
Now it seems that the PLAAF has taken it a bit further, as it conducted "simulated missile attacks" on the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) last month. According to The Aviationist, as many as twenty-eight aircraft including as many as eight H-6 bombers "intruded" into Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) between Jan. 23 and 24 – just three days after President Joe Biden took office.
While the Chinese aircraft remained more than 250 nautical miles from the U.S. carrier and its strike group, pilots of the H-6K bombers could be heard in cockpit conversations confirming orders for the simulated targeting and release of anti-ship missiles, The Financial Times reported. The U.S. warships would have been outside the estimated range of the YJ-12 anti-ship cruise missiles carried on the H-6K.
"The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group closely monitored all People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and Air Force (PLAAF) activity, and at no time did they pose a threat to U.S. Navy ships, aircraft, or Sailors," U.S. Indo-Pacific Command spokesperson Capt. Mike Kafka said via an emailed statement.
"The PLA activities highlighted here, are the latest in a string of aggressive and destabilizing actions," Kafka added. "These actions reflect a continued PLA attempt to use its military as a tool to intimidate or coerce those operating in international waters and airspace, to include their neighbors and those with competing territorial claims. The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, demonstrating resolve through our operational presence throughout the region."
While in this recent PLAAF drill the H-6 bombers may have been out of range, that may not be the case in the coming months. The H-6Ks, which are a Chinese copy of the Cold War Soviet Tu-15 bomber, could be armed with hypersonic weapons, which could be used against targets upwards of 3,000 km (1,864 miles) away. The PLAAF has been modifying a small number of the H-6s to carry a new anti-ship missile, possibly a variant of the DF-21D ballistic anti-ship missile. That could pose a serious danger to the U.S. Navy in the western Pacific.