November 27, 2020 – The first flight students-turned-pilots for the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s aircraft carrier-based fighter jet force have gained initial operational capability, said a spokesman for the Defense Ministry.
Senior Colonel Ren Guoqiang said at a news conference on Thursday afternoon in Beijing that these young aviators, who are in their 20s, have recently carried out landing and takeoff operations on the CNS Liaoning and received certificates for daytime aircraft carrier operations.
Compared with their predecessors, these pilots are the youngest to be certified, and they needed a shorter amount of time to master the sophisticated carrier-based pilot skills and obtain certificates, the spokesman said.
Previously, all naval pilots in the carrier-based fighter force were selected from experienced aviators who had already served in either the PLA Air Force or the PLA Navy. These new pilots, however, were the military’s flight academy students after graduating from high schools.
Their success means that now the Navy can train more pilots for carrier-borne fighter units within a shorter time period, and they will be able to serve longer than their predecessors in the Navy, according to Ren.
“The Navy is striving to explore suitable approaches for carrier-based pilot training, which has been a priority for the force,” the senior colonel said.
The selections of experienced aviators and high-potential students will continue to co-exist in the foreseeable future to make sure that carrier-based fighter pilots can be trained rapidly, he noted.
According to the Navy, a pilot must pass a series of stringent tests to obtain a carrier-based operation certificate.
The PLA Navy now operates two carriers – the CNS Liaoning and the CNS Shandong. The Liaoning was commissioned to the Navy in September 2012 after being refitted in China for several years from an imported Soviet-era vessel, while the Shandong was domestically designed and constructed and entered service in December 2019.