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Xian H-6

Strategic Bomber Aircraft [ 1959 ]

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.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 07/23/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

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.

At its core, the H-6 was classified as a strategic bomber, initially intended to serve as a nuclear bomb deterrent which then gave way to a more conventional bombing role due to advancements in other technologies - particularly of the ballistic missile launched from land or by submarine. Ballistic missiles, therefore, completely removed the need for aircraft in the same nuclear delivery role. The strategic bomber role had been in play since the days of World War 1 and required an aircraft design with strong inherent endurance principles capable of hauling thousands of pounds of ordnance over enemy territory, targeting specific enemy positions such as factories. Chinese H-6 bombers were eventually upgraded to support guided missile ordnance to further extend their battlefield usefulness for decades.

Outwardly, there is very little unique about the H-6 for it remains embedded in the classic Cold War Soviet design philosophy incorporating a smooth cylindrical fuselage with wide-spanning swept-back wings all finished in a silver coating. The engines are nestled within the wing roots and aspirated by oblong air intakes well-aft of the cockpit flight deck and exhausting just aft of amidships before the tail section. The undercarriage is completely retractable and consists of a two-wheeled nose leg and four-wheeled main legs, the latter retracting into streamlined pods at the trailing edge of each wing assembly. The empennage is conventional with a single clipped vertical tail fin and swept-back horizontal planes as expected. The H-6 features a stepped cockpit with noticeably heavy framing consistent with Cold War designs. Some H-6 models also showcased a heavily glazed nose section. A windowed tail position can field a trailing cannon for engaging incoming intercepting enemy aircraft at the aircraft's vulnerable "six". Additionally, the H-6 can be outfitted with 2 x 23mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 series cannons in a remote-controlled dorsal turret to which this arrangement can be further supplemented by a 2 x 23mm cannon system in a remote-controlled ventral emplacement. A single 23mm cannon can also be installed in the nose assembly as required.

The initial Chinese H-6 operational mark was designated simply as "H-6". These were conventional bombers copied directly from their Soviet Tu-16 counterparts with little added flair. Examples were powered by a pair of in-house Xian WP8 series turbojet engines delivering 20,900lbs of thrust each. This allowed for a maximum speed of 656 miles per hour with a cruise speed nearing 480mph. Range was approximately 3,700 miles with a combat radius of 1,100 miles being listed. The airframe could manage a service ceiling of 42,000 feet. Internal ordnance could total up to 20,000lbs of conventional drop ordnance.©MilitaryFactory.com
The next notable production H-6 mark became the H-6A which added the all-important nuclear carry-and-release capability, making China a major player in the Asia-Pacific region. The H-6B became a modified reconnaissance platform based on the conventional bomber design though outfitted with specialized equipment as expected for the role. The H-6C basic bomber variant incorporated an improved countermeasures facility while the H-6D brought about support for the C-601 anti-ship missile (later C-301 and then the C-101) for maritime patrolling and this was further exported as the B-6D. The H-6E was a modernized nuclear bomber type appearing in the 1980s while upgraded H-6A and H-6C airframes fell under the newer and modernized (with GPS, Doppler navigation, inertial navigation) H-6F designation. The H-6G was a weaponless data relay platform used in conjunction with launched cruise missiles and appeared in the 1990s. The H-6H was given two hardpoints for supporting the launching of cruise missiles and appeared in the same decade as the H-6G models. The H-6M was an advanced four-hardpoint cruise-missile-launching platform with improved terrain-following radar facilities and is currently in play as of this writing (2013). The HD-6 was a dedicated Electronic Warfare Aircraft (EWA) platform outfitted with various tracking and sensory suites, advanced Electronic CounterMeasures (ECM) and identified by its solid nose assembly. The most modern H-6 variant is the H-6K complete with revised air intakes, new cockpit, solid radar-housing nose and uprated Soloviev D-30Kp series low-bypass turbofan engines - the same Soviet-Russian designs fitted to the Ilyushin IL-62M/IL-76 and Tupolev Tu-154M transports.

Like many other strategic bombers having outlived their bombing usefulness, the H-6 went on to enjoy something of an extended service life as aerial refueling tanker aircraft (similar to the post-bombing role inherited by the British Vickers Valiant nuclear bomber for the RAF). The initial models were designated as "HY-6" with conveniently retained their full combat capabilities. This then resulted in the streamlined HY-6U series following and the solid-nosed HY-6D production mark (this born from the H-6D bomber mark). Another tanker variant became the HY-6DU series which entered service with the Chinese Air Force and was based on the refined HY-6D variant.

As it stands, the Xian H-6 force is still an active part of Chinese military operations and would be called upon in full strength in the event of all-out war with its neighbors or the West. While largely outmoded by modern technology and holding origins in a 1950s directive, the H-6 family of aircraft are available to the Chinese military in useful numbers to provide a decent stopgap threat to advancing land targets and maritime shipping in the theater. Modifications to the base H-6 system have only enhanced the original aircraft's offering and allowed for the H-6 to remain a viable battlefield tool in 2013. However, there is no denying that this family of aircraft has lived beyond its expected usefulness and retains many design limitations when compared to modern offerings. It offers little stealthy features and its performance is regarded as only adequate.©MilitaryFactory.com
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September 2019 - Revealed in 2019 is an Air-Launched Ballistic Missile (ALBM) carrier version of the H-6 bomber designated the H-6N (H-6X1).


Service Year

China national flag graphic

In Active Service.


Xian Aircraft Industrial Corporation - China
(View other Aviaton-Related Manufacturers)
National flag of China National flag of Egypt National flag of Iraq China; Egypt (retired); Iraq (retired)
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Ability to conduct aerial bombing of ground targets by way of (but not limited to) guns, bombs, missiles, rockets, and the like.

Houses, or can house (through specialized variants), radar equipment for searching, tracking, and engagement of enemy elements.
Survivability enhanced by way of onboard electronic or physical countermeasures enacted by the aircraft or pilot/crew.
Incorporates two or more engines, enhancing survivability and / or performance.
Mainplanes, or leading edges, features swept-back lines for enhanced high-speed performance and handling.
Fuselage volume includes space for internally-held weapons or special-mission equipment.
Can reach and operate at higher altitudes than average aircraft of its time.
Capability to travel considerable distances through onboard fuel stores.
Ability to operate over ocean in addition to surviving the special rigors of the maritime environment.
Supports pressurization required at higher operating altitudes for crew survival.
Beyond a pilot, the aircraft takes advantage of additional crew specialized in specific functions aboard the aircraft.
Defensive gun positions for engagement / suppression.
Defensive rear-facing gun position to neutralize enemy targets emerging from the rear.
Features partially- or wholly-enclosed crew workspaces.
Features retracting / retractable undercarriage to preserve aerodynamic efficiency.

114.2 ft
(34.80 m)
108.3 ft
(33.00 m)
34.0 ft
(10.36 m)
Empty Wgt
82,012 lb
(37,200 kg)
174,165 lb
(79,000 kg)
Wgt Diff
+92,153 lb
(+41,800 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Xian H-6 production variant)
monoplane / mid-mounted / swept-back
Design utilizes a single primary wing mainplane; this represents the most popular modern mainplane arrangement.
Mainplanes are mounted along the midway point of the sides of the fuselage.
The planform features wing sweep back along the leading edges of the mainplane, promoting higher operating speeds.
(Structural descriptors pertain to the base Xian H-6 production variant)
Installed: 2 x Xian WP8 turbojet engines developing 20,900 lb of thrust each.
Max Speed
652 mph
(1,050 kph | 567 kts)
41,995 ft
(12,800 m | 8 mi)
3,728 mi
(6,000 km | 3,240 nm)

♦ MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030

(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the base Xian H-6 production variant. Performance specifications showcased above are subject to environmental factors as well as aircraft configuration. Estimates are made when Real Data not available. Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database or View aircraft by powerplant type)
2 x 23mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannons in remote-controlled dorsal turret.
2 x 23mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannons in remote-controlled ventral turret.
2 x 23mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannons in manned tail turret.
1 x 23mm Nudelman-Rikhter NR-23 cannon in nose.

6 OR 7 x KD-88 air-to-surface, anti-ship missiles.
C-601 anti-ship missiles
C-602 (YJ-62) anti-ship missiles
1 x AS-2 "Kipper" (Kh-10) anti-ship missile in semi-recessed bomb bay.
1 x AS-6 "Kingfish" (Kh-26) anti-ship missile along portside underwing hardpoint.

Up to 20,000lb of internal ordnance.

Supported Types

Graphical image of an aircraft automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Graphical image of an aircraft anti-ship missile

(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)


Hardpoints Key:


Color Key:
Port Wingroot
Stbd Wingroot
Internal Bay
Not Used

H-6 - Initial Production Model; dedicated bomber platform.
H-6A - Dedicated Nuclear Bomber
H-6B - Dedicated Reconnaissance Platform
H-6C (H-6III) - Base Bomber Platform with improved countermeasures suite.
H-6III - Initial Designation for H-6C bomber.
H-6D (H-6IV) - Anti-Ship Missile Platform; radome installed under nose; 2 x C-601 missiles.
H-6IV - Initial Designation of H-6D model.
H-6E - Strategic Nuclear Bomber; improved countermeasures suite.
H-6F - Upgraded H-6A and H-6C production models; new inertial guidance system; GPS receiver; doppler navigation radar.
H-6G - Cruise Missile Guidance Platform; sans defensive armament and bomb bay.
H-6H - Cruise Missile Carrier; sans defensive armament and bomb bay.
H-6K - Electronic Warfare Aircraft (EWA) Platform; fitted with improved D-30KP turbofan engines; revised intake openings; revised internal crew areas; nose radome.
H-6M - Cruise Missile Carrier; sans defensive armament and bomb bay; fitted with terrain-following radar; four underwing external hardpoints.
H-6N (H-6X1) - Ballistic Missile Carrier platform; model of 2019; aerial refueling capable.
HD-6 - Electronic Warfare Aircraft (EWA) Platform; solid nose assembly; additional countermeasures equipment.
HY-6 - Initial In-flight Refueling Production Model.
HY-6U - Revised HY-6 tanker production model; fitted with PV-23 fire control system.
H-6U - Alternative designation for HY-6U tanker.
HY-6D - Tanker Aircraft; coverted from H-6D production models; solid metal nose assembly; PV-23 fire control system.
HY-6DU - Tanker Aircraft; based on the HY-6D; PV-23 fire control system.
H-6DU - Alternative Designation for HY-6DU.
B-6D - Export Model of the H-6D
H-6I - Fitted with 4 x Rolls-Royce Spey Mk 512 turbofan engines; increased range.
H-8I - Improved Strategic Bomber; no produced.
H-8II - Improved Strategic Bomber; none produced.

General Assessment
Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
Overall Rating
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry.
Rating is out of a possible 100 points.
Firepower Index (BETA)

Inherent combat value taking into account weapons support / versatility, available hardpoints, and total carrying capability.
View the List
Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 750mph
Lo: 375mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (652mph).

Graph average of 563 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
Max Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected above are altitude, speed, and range.
Aviation Era Span
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
Unit Production (175)
Compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian).

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Images Gallery

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Image of the Xian H-6
Image from the Chinese Ministry of Defense.
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Image of the Xian H-6
Image from the Chinese Ministry of Defense.
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Image of the Xian H-6
Image from the Chinese Ministry of Defense.
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Image of the Xian H-6
Image from the Chinese Ministry of Defense.
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Image of the Xian H-6
Image from the Chinese Ministry of Defense.
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Image of the Xian H-6
Image from the Chinese Ministry of Defense.
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Image of the Xian H-6
Image from the Chinese Ministry of Defense.
8 / 8
Image of the Xian H-6
A Soviet Tupolev Tu-16 representing the Chinese Xian H-6 bomber.

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