China is planning to conduct a flight test for an important type of aircraft that has crucial strategic and historic significance, said a top official at the flight test center of the Chinese military's top warplane contractor in a recent meeting.
The remark was made by Ge Heping, Party chief of the Chinese Flight Test Establishment under the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), at a rally meeting on Tuesday to mobilize personnel involved in the test, Xiakedao, the new media platform of the People's Daily overseas edition, reported on Wednesday, citing a press release from the establishment.
Ge urged all personnel involved in the development of the aircraft to fully realize the extreme importance of completing this mission, according to the report.
Neither the report nor the press release revealed the designation or the nature of the aircraft.
Many netizens speculated in the comment session of the report that the aircraft in question could be the long-rumored H-20 strategic stealth bomber. Only a strategic weapon deserves the description of possessing strategic and historic significance, some said.
The Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force gave a hint on the flying wing design of its next-generation, long-range strategic stealth bomber by including it in a scene in the service's recruitment video in January 2021.
A promotional video for AVIC released in May 2018 also showed the front outline of a similar aircraft covered with a blanket, suggesting the flying wing design was similar to the US' B-2 bomber.
Given all of these official hints, the speculation from the public that the new aircraft could be the H-20 makes sense, but it might just be an over-interpretation, a Chinese expert who tracks China's aviation industry development told the Global Times on Thursday, requesting anonymity.
There are other possibilities for the unknown aircraft, including the alleged catapult-launched variant for the J-15 carrier-based fighter jet and the alleged J-35 carrier-based stealth fighter jet, the expert said. He noted that they are expected to board China's third aircraft carrier, the 80,000 ton class, electromagnetic catapult-equipped Fujian, which surely does have strategic and historic significance.
Nevertheless, it is great to see new progress in China's aviation development, the expert said.
Founded in 1959, the Chinese Flight Test Establishment, also known as the AVIC Flight Test Center, is China's only national-level organization qualified to conduct validations and flight tests for aviation products, including military and civilian aircraft, aero engines and airborne equipment, reads the establishment's self-description.