Number of Bombers Projected To Increase Over Next Decade

Seventy years since its first flight the B-52 remains at the core of the U.S. bomber fleet and is expected to remain there beyond 2050.
Credit: Senior Airman Kate Bragg, U.S. Air Force

As of 2022, only three countries continue to operate dedicated long-range bombers—China, Russia and the U.S.—with 518 aircraft in service around the world. With that number having been in decline since the end of the Cold War, it is perhaps testament to the deterioration of global stability that Aviation Week Network projects the number will increase over the next decade to 574 aircraft as the same three operators modernize and expand their fleets.

While focus shifts to the next generation of bombers in the form of the Air Force’s B-21 and China’s H-20, both of which are racing towards their first flights, it is platforms from the earliest days of the Cold War that continue to dominate the global bomber inventory. The largest single family of bombers in service around the world is the Xian H-6 operated by China, itself a platform that can trace its lineage back 70 years to the first flight of the Tupolev Tu-16 just 12 days after the B-52. These two 1950s vintage aircraft families alone account for 60% of all bombers currently in service globally.



The TU-16 was designed as a medium range bomber. With an un-refueled "combat range" of 970 nm (Wiki), The H-6 is not a "long range" bomber as the article suggests.
Interesting disconnect between the headline and the graphic. More accurate would be a statement such as "While legacy bomber countries, USA and Russia, plan to shrink their bomber fleet, China plans a 25% increase in airframes."