China, which recently launched its third aircraft carrier Fujian, is struggling to find qualified ship-borne fighter jet pilots for its navy, South China Morning Post reported quoting experts.
The crisis was highlighted in an article published in Ordnance Industry Science Technology, a Chinese military magazine.
In the article, it was argued that a lack of a fighter trainer specifically designed for carrier-based operations has hindered the progress of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, despite speeding up the pilot training programmes in the past decade.
“With Fujian, China’s third and most advanced aircraft carrier, having started sea trials last week, the PLA needed at least 200 qualified carrier-based fighter jet pilots to operate 130 ship-borne aircraft,” Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie said in the article.
China commissioned its first indigenous aircraft carrier, the new-generation Fujian (Type 003), in June this year. This is its first aircraft carrier that is equipped with electromagnetic catapults – technology only the US has so far on its USS Gerald R Ford.
While China’s first two carriers featured ski-jump designs, the new aircraft carrier’s aircraft launch and recovery system made it difficult to find a pilot well-suited to the new mechanism.
“It’s full of challenges, as aircraft design and pilot training are among the world’s most difficult and complicated core technology – which no one will share with you,” Li said.
The problem stems from the fact that PLA navy pilots use the Chinese-made JL-9G, a single-engine twin-seat aircraft as a carrier-trainer variant.
However, it cannot be used to simulate emergency landings on a flight deck because of flaws such as being too light and too slow, the report published in the magazine said.
Those flaws have seen it confined to land-based simulated carrier training.