Chinese experts said that China still does not have intercontinental strategic bombers in service. To date, the Chinese Air Force is armed with Xian H-6K (variant of Tu-16) strategic bombers, designed to deliver nuclear munitions. Yet, China regrets the failed deal to deliver Tu-160 aircraft.
Beijing Times wrote that China was about to sign the deal to acquire strategic Tu-160 bombers during the late 1990s, but the US and Russia did not let the deal materialise.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine inherited 19 new strategic Tu-160 bombers, but was expecting to sell them being unable to exploit the aircraft.
Russia did not want China to obtain the aircraft. In 1999, Ukraine had to return eight Tu-160 strategic bombers to be able to pay debt for shipments of Russian natural gas.
In addition, the United States and the European Union signed an agreement with the new Ukrainian government to destroy strategic weapons that Ukraine inherited from the Soviet Union. The United States provided Ukraine $15 million for the purpose. As a result, China failed to buy Tu-160 bombers from Ukraine.
China had to prepare its own base for the construction of new intercontinental strategic bombers equipped with nuclear and conventional weapons, the publication wrote. At the same time, Tu-160 could have improved China’s defence capability a lot easier and cheaper.