Is China really going to start building these supersonic bombers?
While the Western media has been focusing a lot on China's sexiest new military toys -- stealth fighters, drones, ballistic missiles, and aircraft carriers -- we may have missed a relatively unsexy secret: the Chinese navy's supersonic bomber program. How is a supersonic bomber unglamorous? Because these "new" bombers, for which Chinais rumored to be developing a factory, are licensed copies of the Tupelov's 1970s-vintage Tu-22M Backfire nuclear bombers -- think of them as the Soviet Union's shorter-ranged version of the American B-1 Lancer. (The Backfire actually predates "the Bone," as the B-1 is called by its crews.)
Although nothing official has been reported from either Moscow or Beijing, Chinese web forums have been buzzing since early 2012 about the emergence of a Tu-22M3 production line. In late December, this Chinesesite claimed that Western bloggers had revealed China's "secret" bomber program. Apparently, the aircraft will be built by Xi'an aircraft corporation in China -- with engines imported from Russia since the Chinese haven't yet mastered the difficult art of making high performance jet engines -- for use by the navy.