Chinese H-6K strategic bombers have been continuously conducting bombing runs practice targeting the U.S. territory of Guam making them the most worrisome potential threat in the Pacific.
According to U.S. military officials, Chinese H-6K “Badger” bombers are testing the U.S. defense zones around Guam with a cruise missile capable of reaching targets at up to 2 200 kilometers. The Badger can carry up to six CJ-20 cruise missiles, each equipped with a 500 kg conventional or nuclear warhead.
The strategic bomber can also be equipped with a wide variety of anti-ship missiles as well as air-launched cruise missiles making it a weapon of choice to target U.S. military installations on the territory of Guam if a war was declared. The earlier model had a bomb bay but was removed in favor of extra fuel for better combat radius, making it around 3 500 km.
With the Badger’s combat radius and the CJ-20 cruise missile range, China can reach targets at more than 5 000 km on a single sortie, making it capable of hitting a large parts of the Pacific Ocean while remaining in its airspace.
That said, the majority of the flights near Guam are conducted without any incident such as unsafe flying. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force does comply with U.S. Pacific Command commands making sure the situation does not further escalate.
I believe China is conducting those bombing runs practice to assert its gains in the South China Sea where an artificial island was built to host military installations. The geopolitical gains by China in the South China Sea with the new artificial island will be a major role in the future of the region. Having a permanent presence in the South China Sea will solidify China’s claims—even if it’s not possible as a legal matter—as well as controlling the maritime traffic.
Since the international community has been focusing on North Korea and its numerous missile tests, China has also been intensifying its sorties making the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) conduct more than 900 interceptions near Japan’s air defense identification zone, or ADIZ.
Last August, Japan intercepted six Chinese H-6K bombers flying between Okinawa’s main island and Miyako Islands towards Kii Peninsula.
The incident marked the first time Chinese bombers have flown northbound toward Kyushu and Shikoku after flying between the two islands, a Defense Ministry spokesman said.
The Japanese and Chinese aircraft are coming in close proximity of each other on a daily basis while the U.S. and Chinese ones are also increasing. With the new fifth-generation Chengdu J-20 multirole fighter being moved into serial production soon, the USAF will have to rethink its strategy to maintain air superiority in the region while supporting the daily operations of the JASDF.
While the United States keeps an eye on those sorties, the main focus still remains on North Korea. Yet, I do believe China remains the main threat to the United States and its allies in the region, especially with China’s willingness to control the South China Sea.
China remains the most powerful force in the region and with the current military modernization program, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see those incursions and bombing runs practice intensified in the next few years. That said, Marine General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the United States would remain a Pacific power regardless of China’s actions.
“There are some who try to create a narrative that we are not in the Pacific to stay,” he said. “Our message is that we are a Pacific power. We intend to stay in the Pacific. Our future economic prosperity is inextricably linked to our security and political relationships in the region.”