Intelligence agencies claim to have intercepted communications from Chinese H-6K bombers about simulating a missile attack on the US aircraft carrier, USS Roosevelt, in the South China Sea, according to Financial Times.
The Chinese bombers were part of a ‘package’ that penetrated Taiwan’s ADIZ (air-defense identification zone) last week.
People familiar with the intelligence collected by the US and its allies were quoted by the FT as saying that the bombers and some of the fighter aircraft involved were conducting an exercise that used a group of US Navy vessels led by the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the same area as a simulated target.
Pilots of H-6 bombers could be heard in cockpit conversations confirming orders for the simulated targeting and release of anti-ship missiles against the carrier, the FT report said.
According to the information released by the Taiwan Ministry of Defense, a total of 28 aircraft intruded into the country’s airspace in two days (January 23 and 24).
Eight H-6K bombers escorted by four J-16 fighter jets and one Y-8 anti-submarine warfare craft were spotted on the first day. Then, six J-10 fighters, four J-16s, two SU-30s, a Y-8 reconnaissance aircraft, and two Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft had entered the ADIZ the next day.
The communication was intercepted from the H-6K bombers, which are a version of the Chinese license-produced Tu-16 twin-engine jet bomber, and serves as the primary strategic bomber for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).
Its naval version, H-6K, is one of the latest variants bearing D-30KP turbofan engines of 12,000 kg thrust. They replaced the original Chinese turbojet ones. Other modifications include larger air intakes, a redesigned flight deck with smaller/fewer transparencies, and a large dielectric nose radome.
It is believed that the H-6K is designed for long-range/stand-off maritime or land strike capability with long-range anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles. In short, it is capable of attacking US carrier battle groups or other priority targets with up to six YJ-12 anti-ship cruise missiles and 6/7 KD-20 ALCMs, as mentioned by the defense and aviation analyst David Cenciotti.
Another variant of the H-6K is called H-6N, designed to be a ballistic missile carrier which was, last year, spotted carrying new hypersonic missiles in captive carry tests under its fuselage.
According to some reports, the aircraft is already in service with the PLAAF, and is capable of mounting an air-launched version of the DF-21 “carrier-killer” anti-ship ballistic missile or the CJ-100 supersonic cruise missiles with an added 3,700-mile range including aerial refueling or a variety of other oversized payloads – including those with nuclear warheads.