The head of the Chinese air force said Thursday that the country is developing a new long-range bomber in what is claimed to be the latest move in its ambitious military modernization program, Reuters reported, citing local media.
China, which continues to invest in military and weaponry operations to increase its power projection, is already equipped with combat aircraft that are capable of striking targets far from its territory. However, the country is seeking additional improvements in the future as part of its defense strategy and military developments.
“We are now developing a new generation of long-range bomber, and you'll see it in the future,” the state-run Global Times quoted air force chief Ma Xiaotian on Friday as saying at an Air Force Open Day, without elaborating further.
Last year, China unveiled its new-generation H-6K strategic bomber armed with the DH-20 land-attack cruise missile, which could hit targets as far away as Australia. Since then, the plane has flown multiple training missions over the western Pacific and has also been used for patrols over the disputed South China Sea.
China, which is also developing its own stealth fighter jets, reportedly introduced a new domestically developed large transport aircraft called Y-20 that uses a Russian engine.
Over the last few years, China has ramped up its efforts in developing advanced new military equipment, including submarines, aircraft carriers and anti-satellite missiles.
Local media reported last week that China is working on a high level of artificial intelligence and automation for its next generation of cruise missiles.
“We plan to adopt a ‘plug and play’ approach in the development of new cruise missiles, which will enable our military commanders to tailor-make missiles in accordance with combat conditions,” Wang Changqing of the China Aerospace and Industry Corp. told the state-run China Daily newspaper.
In its annual report on military and security developments involving China, the U.S. Defense Department said that Chinese leaders seemed committed to sustaining defense spending growth for the foreseeable future, despite its sluggish economic growth.
“From 2006 to 2015, China’s officially disclosed military budget grew at an average of 9.8 percent per year in inflation-adjusted terms,” Abraham M. Denmark, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, said in a statement. “The true expenditure, DoD estimates, in terms of total military-related spending for 2015, exceeded $180 billion in 2015.”