Tupolev Tu-16 Badger
Xian “Hongzhaji” H-6
The Hongzhaji-6 (Bomber-6), or Hong-6/H-6 has served in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) since 1959. Despite its obsolescence, to include a World War II style glass nose and tail-gunner station, the H-6 has served in a wide range of roles, from nuclear and conventional bomber, to naval strike platform, tanker, reconnaissance/electronic warfare, UAV-launcher, engine test-bed, and strategic cruise missile launcher. In the future new versions of the H-6 may be used to carry new air-launched space launch vehicles carrying anti-satellite weapons.
In early 1956, at the height of the first Sino-Soviet alliance, the former Soviet Union agreed to give China the ability to manufacture the Tupolev Tu-16 (NATO code name Badger) medium bomber. The first H-6 assembled from Soviet-made kits was delivered to the PLAAF in September 1959. It was a Soviet-parts built H-6 which was modified and later used to test China’s first thermonuclear bomb in May 1966. But the Sino-Soviet split delayed H-6 production. The first Chinese-produced version was not completed until 1966. A subject of continual upgrading, in 1975 work began on the anti-ship missile carrying H-6D naval strike variant, which did not enter PLA Naval Air Force service until 1985. In the mid-1990s U.S. intelligence detected that some H-6s had been converted to carry aerial refueling hose-drogue unit (HDU) pods on the outer wings. It has subsequently been assessed that PLAAF and PLANAF H-6s have been so converted. These refuel Shenyang J-8IID fighters in PLAAF and PLANAF regiments, and more recently have refueled at least one Chengdu J-10 modified for aerial fueling.