Xian H-6 Strategic Bomber Aircraft
The Xian H-6 became essentially nothing more than a Chinese licensed production copy of the Soviet-era Tupolev Tu-16 medium strategic bomber series - fewer than 200 have been produced.
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Into the 1960s, communist China held a close working military and political relationship with the Soviet Union. As such, there passed technologies to the flourishing ranks of China which benefitted from Soviet-designed and developed weapons of all types. it was this relationship that set the stage for the well-established and growing Chinese military we witness today. One of the gifted technological products became the Tupolev Tu-16 series strategic bomber - recognized by NATO as the "Badger". The Tu-16 was introduced with Soviet air power in 1954 and operated until 1993 before being retired. Key operators of the type went on to include Egypt, Indonesia and Iraq with some 1,500 produced in all. The Chinese were, in turn, recipients of their first Tu-16 airframe in 1958. The first Chinese Air Force Tu-16 flew as the "H-6" the following year.
Chinese involvement with theTu-16 line went a step further after an agreement was reached between the two regional powers to locally-produce the Tu-16 across Chinese factory lines as the "H-6" with the Xi'an Aircraft Industrial Corporation heading the endeavor. Local production of Tu-16s then began in 1968. While sources vary, at least 160 examples were produced locally with as many as 180 total units also being suspected. Production spanned into the 1990s to which its use has since been largely outclassed by emerging rocket and missile technologies elsewhere. Regardless, the People's Liberation Army Air Force currently manages a healthy stock of some 120 H-6 bombers as of this writing (2013). Egypt and Iraq became the only foreign operators of the H-6 and these have all been either retired (Egypt, 2000) or destroyed (Iraq, in the 1991 Persian Gulf War). China fields the H-6 in both its air force (approx. 80 units) and navy (approx. 30 units) inventories.