Xian H-6

The Xian H-6 (Chinese: 轰-6; pinyin: Hōng-6) is a license-built version of the Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 twin-engine jet bomber, built for the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force.

Delivery of the Tu-16 to China began in 1958, and the Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation (XAC) signed a license production agreement with the USSR to build the type in the late 1950s. The first Chinese Tu-16, or "H-6" as it was designated in Chinese service, flew in 1959. Production was performed by the plant at Xian, with at least 150 built into the 1990s. China is estimated to currently operate around 120 of the aircraft.

The latest version is the heavily redesigned air-launched cruise missile-carrying H-6K, which, according to United States Department of Defense, will give the PLA a long range standoff offensive air capability with precision-guided munitions.

Xian H-6
Class Aircraft
Type Bomber
Manufacturer Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation
Origin China
Country Name Origin Year
China 1959
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
China View
Egypt 1959 2000 View
Iraq 1959 1991 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation 180 View

The first domestically produced H-6 was completed in 1968 and evidence of bombing training was recorded by U.S. spy satellites on August 13. 1971. By March of the following year, the CIA estimated that the PRC had 32 aircraft operational with an additional 19 awaiting completion.

The H-6 was used to drop nine nuclear devices at the Lop Nur test site. However, with the increased development in ballistic missile technology, the nuclear delivery capabilities that the H-6 offered diminished in importance. The CIA estimated in 1976 that the H-6 had moved over to a dual nuclear/conventional bombing role.

Developed versions

Along with the H-6 free-fall bomber, an "H-6A" nuclear bomber was built, as well as an "H-6B" reconnaissance variant, "H-6C" conventional bomber and "H-6E" nuclear bomber with improved countermeasures, and the "H-6D" antiship missile carrier. The H-6D was introduced in the early 1980s and carried a C-601 antishipping missile (NATO codename "Silkworm", an air-launched derivative of the Soviet P-15 Termit ("Styx") under each wing. The H-6D featured various modernized systems and sports an enlarged radome with a Type 245 Kobalt I-band surveillance radar under the nose. The Type 245 radar was based on the Soviet PSBN-M-8 NATO codename Mushroom radar used on the Tupolev Tu-16. Earlier versions (Type 241, 242 and 244) were installed on the early models of the H-6. The H-6 has also been used as a tanker and drone launcher. Later H-6 production featured extended curved wingtips.

Many H-6A and H-6C aircraft were updated in the 1990s to the "H-6F" configuration, the main improvement being a modern navigation system, with a Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite constellation receiver, Doppler navigation radar, and inertial navigation system. New production began in the 1990s as well, with Xian building the "H-6G", which is a director for ground-launched cruise missiles; the "H-6H", which carries two land-attack cruise missiles. In terms of land attack cruise missiles five immediate possibilities were considered by PLAAF - the indigenous HN-1, HN-2 and HN-3, a cloned Tomahawk widely reported, likely to be the DH-10/CJ-10, and a variant of Russian designed cruise missile. It is believed CJ-10 is chosen to be the main land attack missile for H-6 bombers, and now the "H-6M" cruise missile carrier, which has four pylons for improved cruise missiles and is fitted with a terrain-following system. Apparently these variants have no internal bomb capability, and most or all of their defensive armament has been deleted.


The H-6K, first flying on 5 January 2007, entered service in October 2009 during the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, and is claimed to make China the fourth country with a strategic bomber after US, Russia and the United Kingdom. With a reinforced structure making use of composite materials,[6] enlarged engine inlets for Russian Soloviev D-30 turbofan engines giving a claimed combat radius of 3,500 kilometres (2,200 mi),[5] a glass cockpit with large size LCD multi-function display, and a reworked nose section eliminating the glazed navigator's station in favour of a more powerful radar, the H-6K is a significantly more modern aircraft than earlier versions. The bomb bay has been replaced by extra fuel capacity, and six underwing pylons for CJ-10A cruise missiles. The rear 23mm guns and gunner position are replaced by electronic components.

In January 2009, it was reported that an indigenous turbofan engine, the WS-18, was under development for use in the H-6K.

Role Strategic bomber
Manufacturer Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation
First flight 1959
Retired Iraq (1991)
Egypt (2000)
Status Active service with the PRC
Primary users People's Liberation Army Air Force
People's Liberation Army Navy
Egyptian Air Force
Iraqi Air Force
Number built 162–180
Developed from Tupolev Tu-16

General characteristics

  • Crew: 4
  • Length: 34.8 m (114 ft 2 in)
  • Wingspan: 33.0 m (108 ft 3 in)
  • Height: 10.36 m (34 ft 0 in)
  • Wing area: 165 m² (1,775 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 37,200 kg (82,000 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 76,000 kg (168,000 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 79,000 kg (174,000 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Xian WP8 turbojets, 93.2 kN (20,900 lbf) each


  • Maximum speed: 1,050 km/h (567 knots, 656 mph)
  • Cruise speed: Mach 0.75 (768 km/h, 477 mph)
  • Range: 6,000 km (3,200 nm, 3,700 mi)
  • Combat radius: 1,800 km (970 nm, 1,100 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 12,800 m (42,000 ft)
  • Wing loading: 460 kg/m² (94 lb/ft²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.24


  • Guns:
    2× 23 mm (0.906 in) Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannons in remote dorsal turret
    2× NR-23 cannons in remote ventral turret
    2× NR-23 cannons in manned tail turret
    1× NR-23 cannons in nose (occasional addition)
  • Missiles:
    6 or 7 KD-88 missile (anti-ship or air-to-surface)
    C-601 anti-ship missile
    YJ-62 (C-602) anti-ship missile
    C-301 anti-ship missile
    C-101 anti-ship missile
  • Bombs: 9,000 kg (20,000 lb) of free-fall weapons
  • Guided bombs

End notes