A H-6 strategic bomber attached to a bomber regiment of the naval aviation force under the PLA Southern Theater Command soars into the air during a recent realistic flight training exercise. (eng.chinamil.com.cn/Photo by Gao Hongwei)
The H-6J, the latest type of bomber to enter service with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, recently participated in a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea, practicing bomb dropping on islands and sea mine-laying, which analysts said on Sunday displayed the aircraft’s traditional bombing capability in addition to its standoff strike competence.
Affiliated with the Naval Aviation Force under the PLA Southern Theater Command, a regiment based in South China’s Hainan Province organized a drill involving the actual use of high-explosive aerial bombs and sea bottom mines, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Friday.
Several bombers took off at night, formed aerial formations and reached the designated sea area at daybreak under complex weather conditions, including heavy clouds.
The aircraft first laid the sea mines, then proceeded to drop the bombs, which are characterized by their fast speed and large blast radius, CCTV reported.
The bombs hit targets on islands and reefs, the report footage showed.
After the first wave of bombing, the bombers returned to base, received thorough checks and were resupplied with munitions and fuel before taking off again for the second air raid.
“We have effectively tested the accuracy and reliability of both types of munitions. For the next step, we will pursue innovations in tactics and approaches with the realistic situation of the enemies taken into consideration, and make breakthroughs in using new types of weapons and equipment,” Zhang Yanjie, a deputy commander of the regiment, said in the report.
Also carrying YJ-12 anti-ship missiles under its wings in addition to bombs and sea mines in its belly, the H-6J bomber took part in the drill, according to the CCTV report. This type of aircraft was officially revealed
by China’s Defense Ministry only last year.
The drill showed that the H-6J maintains its traditional bombing capability, even though it can also be armed with standoff weapons like anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles, a Beijing-based military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Sunday.
Bombs are more efficient and cheaper than missiles, and they come in particularly handy when bombers are not threatened by hostile fire. This could be when friendly forces have already seized air superiority and cleared anti-aircraft fire, the expert said, noting that on the doorstep of the Chinese mainland, such as the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits, similar situations will occur to PLA bombers more often than not.
At a time when foreign forces and Taiwan secessionists are making provocations, the PLA drills could serve as a deterrent, analysts said.