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Chinese bomber launches new ballistic missile

China first unveiled the new ALBM in November 2022, during AirShow China 2022. At the time, the two missiles unveiled had a yellow stripe and a code signifying that they were training missiles (as shown in the image, in the top part of this graphic). Recent imagery shows the ALBM in a low-observable grey-blue colour scheme, indicating that the missile is progressing to production. (Janes/Gettyimages)

China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) has released a video showing a Xi'an H-6K strategic bomber launching a new ballistic missile in flight.

Imagery of the air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM) being dropped from the H-6K was included in an official PLA video released on 1 May. In the video, the new missile is dropped from the port side wing pylon of an H-6K. The missile, which has the tentative designation of KD-21, is not shown igniting its engine.

The new ALBM is potentially a hypersonic missile, similar to the Russian Kh‐47M2 Kinzhal (AS-24 ‘Killjoy'). Janes has previously assessed that the KD-21 ALBM is likely powered by a solid-propellant rocket engine. However, it is unclear if the KD-21 in the recent video was equipped with an engine.

The ALBM was first unveiled to the public at AirShow China 2022 at Zhuhai. At the time, two missiles (carried in the wing pylons of an H-6K) were marked with the code 2PZD-21, which stands for Pèi zhòng dǎodàn (counterweight missile). This indicated that they were not live munitions.

In the 1 May video, however, the decorative stripe and code seen on the KD-21 at AirShow China 2022 appear to be absent. The ALBM in the recent video is painted in an operational grey-blue colour scheme, with the nose painted pale grey. Janes

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