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The H-6K bomber was not armed with a long-range cruise missile. Source: CCTV

China sends long-range bomber to border with India

  • Footage broadcast on CCTV shows H-6K on flight to mountainous region
  • Images calibrated to send warning to ease tensions, analyst says
The People’s Liberation Army has deployed at least one long-range strategic H-6K bomber to its borders with India in a move meant as a warning to the Indian military not to escalate tensions over winter, analysts said.

To mark the PLA Air Force’s 72nd anniversary on November 11, state broadcaster China Central Television aired footage that included a brief shot of an H-6K flying over a mountain range, indicating the aircraft had been sent to the Himalayas.

The aircraft was armed with short-range KD-63 missiles – and not the long-range CJ-20 cruise missiles that it is also designed to carry.

A Beijing-based military source said the H-6Ks were usually based in Shaanxi province but had been stationed in Kashgar in the neighbouring western region of Xinjiang on a temporary basis since last year.
The aircraft came under the Western Theatre Command, which includes the Xinjiang and Tibet military districts and is responsible for the border security along the contested frontier with India.

“It’s very easy for the PLA to fly H-6Ks to the China-India border, because the aircraft are stationed ... under the Western Theatre Command,” the source said.

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With a combat range of more than 3,500km (2,200 miles), the H-6K is designed to carry long-range CJ-20 cruise missiles for attacks on land and sea targets as well as short-range missiles like the KD-63.

Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Tong said the apparent deployment was “definitely a warning to India”.

“New Delhi is within the combat range of the H-6K and the striking range of the CJ-20,” Wong said.

But military commentator Song Zhongping said the PLA was focused less on the Indian capital and more on the country’s airbases, missile launch sites and other military posts near the borders.

“China will not attack civilian areas, so Delhi will not be targeted by air-launched missiles even though the capital is quite close to the border,” said Song, a former PLA artillery corps instructor.


India ramps up defences on Himalayan border after deadly clashes with China

India ramps up defences on Himalayan border after deadly clashes with China

Zhou Chenming, a researcher from the Yuan Wang military science and technology institute in Beijing, said it was notable that the CCTV footage did not include images of the long-range CJ-20s.

“It’s a careful warning from the PLA. The CCTV [report] deliberately did not include footage of the H-6K with powerful CJ-20,” Zhou said.

“China hopes the border conflicts will not escalate further, with the coronavirus pandemic expected to worsen this winter.”

China-India border dispute: defence chief says Beijing is New Delhi’s ‘biggest security threat’

In response to the PLA deployment, the Indian Air Force sent Mig-29UPG and Su-30MKI fighter jets to their frontline airbases in Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, the three key contested areas along the two countries’ disputed border, the Line of Actual Control (LAC), according to Indian media reports.

China and India have bolstered defences along the LAC since another round of talks between military commanders broke down on October 10, with each side blaming the other for the flashpoints along the border.
The commander-level talks began in May 2020, when friction first broke out on multiple locations along the LAC, which stretches over thousands of kilometres. The military confrontation peaked in June last year when at least two dozen soldiers were killed in the Galwan Valley in Ladakh.
CCTV also reported that PLA troops from the Xinjiang military district carried out high-altitude, live-fire assault ammunition training in the Karakoram Mountains in an exercise to eliminate hostile tank troops and military outposts.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: bomber deployment a ‘warning’ to new delhi