She might be old, but she can kill.
In recent days, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has stepped up its activities in the South China Sea.
For the first time ever, the PLAAF has landed Xian H-6K bombers on Woody Island in the disputed Paracel archipelago. The Pentagon decried the Chinese move as a part of “China’s continued militarisation of disputed features in the South China Sea,” U.S. Pacific Command spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said.
The H-6K—which is a highly upgraded Chinese copy of the antiquated 1950s-era Soviet-built Tupolev Tu-16 Badger—is the PLAAF’s mainstay bomber. But while the Badger design is a Soviet-era antique, internally, the Chinese H-6K is a modern aircraft with a much-improved airframe, sensors and propulsion.
The new H-6K variant replaces the old Xian WP8 turbojets found on pervious H-6 versions with new Russian Soloviev D-30-KP2 turbofans. The D-30 low bypass two shaft turbofan—which some might call a leaky turbojet—has been modified for use on a number of applications ranging from the Mach 2.83 capable Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor to the Ilyushin Il-76 military transport to the Il-62 airliner to the new Xian Y-20 strategic airlifter. While the D-30—having been originally designed to power the MiG-31—is not an ideal engine for a subsonic bomber or transport aircraft, it is an enormous improvement over the primitive WP8 turbojets that were originally installed on the H-6.
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