H-6A Nuclear Weapon Carrier
In order to cooperate with the development and test of the atomic bomb the Bureau of Aviation Industry assigned the Xi'an Aircraft Factory a task in 1963 to retrofit a H-6 aircraft assembled by the Harbin Aircraft Factory in 1959 into a nuclear weapon carrier. According to the defined general configuration the bomb carrying and delivering system, heating and heat preservation system, protection system and the temporary test equipment should be retrofitted or incorporated.
Li Xipu, vice director, was in charge of the retrofitting of the carrier aircraft. An office and a retrofitting team were established. Preparation of the retrofitting began in June 1963 and was completed in September 1964. Support and cooperation were received from relevant organizations all over China. Organizations in the chemical industry, machine building industry and textile industry supplied the required materials and equipment.
The retrofitted H-6 carrier was flown for the first time by Li Yuanyi and his air crew on 14 May 1965, and a successful delivery of an atomic bomb was made over the western area in China. Six people of the Li Yuanyi air crew were thus awarded Collective First Class Merit and Li Xipu was invited to an interview with Premier Zhou Enlai and to attend a celebration dinner party in Beijing.
BADGER flight activity was first detected by US intelligence in July 1962. Since that time detected flight activity was sporadic yet increasing. Night flight activity was not noted until 1970. Both BULLs and BADGERs have been associated by Western intelligence with special weapons programs, participating in nuclear tests both as drop aircraft and in air sampling roles, though Chinese sources make no mention of a nuclear-capable variant of the BULL. The first confirmation of BADGER bombing training was provided by satellite photography on 13 August 1971 when a BADGER was photographed exiting the Hsingjenpao bomb range. Subsequent COMINT reporting identified BADGER activity that began in 1969 and has continued over this range as bombing training. In the early 1970s intensification of this training coupled with the highest noted altitudes for BADGER activity -- 41,000 feet -- confirmed China's serious intent to develop a strategic strike capability.
Batch production began in 1971 and reached a peak rate of about 30 aircraft per year in the late 1970s. By 1986, a total of 140 examples had been delivered to the PLAAF.
The H-6AII is the improved variant of the H-6A fitted with an automatic bombing/navigation system. In order to improve the automation of the H-6A's navigation and bombing system and solve the problem that the H-6A could not fly for a long distance with the ground navigation, the development of the second generation automatic navigation and bombing system was unveiled in 1970. The system consisted of 9 vendor-furnished-equipment, i.e. computer, automatic navigator, Doppler Radar, heading and attitude system, autopilot and bombing radar. They were installed in a H-6A and tested in flight in 1975 after they had been developed.
Improvements in the H-6's navigation and bombing system was begun in October 1976 to improve its accuracy and effectiveness. Beneficial changes were made in the navigation, radar, and bombing systems. The second generation automatic navigation and bombing system was certified in August 1977. The H-6 was now capable of various types of bombing, from fully- automatic, to semi-automatic, manual , radar, optical gunsight, and interconnected radar and optical gunsight bombing. The newly improved H-6 conducted its first flight in March 1981 and was delivered later that year.
In 1980 a H-6A was formally retrofitted, its flight test program completed in 1981 and the pre-production started in 1982. From the 12th batch of the H-6A in 1982, the aircraft was built in the H-6AII standard. Existing H-6A bombers in PLA service were also upgraded to the H-6AII standard. The retrofitting with the second generation automatic navigation and bombing system had an important effect on increasing the H-6's vitality and improving the Air Force's operational capability.
The Japan Defence Agency asserted in its' White Paper, Defence of Japan 1996, that China is no longer operating strategic bombers.
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