The aircraft carrier Liaoning battle group steam on the sea. (Photo: Global Times)
The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy is training jet fighter pilots to sail and command warships, a move that aims to create more capable commanding officers for aircraft carriers, according to military experts.
Experienced pilots from carrier-borne aircraft units and advanced fighter jet units started learning warship combat and command at an undisclosed naval academy in late November, the PLA Daily reported on Monday.
This is a whole new exploration by the navy to develop ship-aircraft command talent, as China's aircraft carrier force is in urgent need of such talent, the PLA Daily said, noting that the trainees were carefully selected, passing more than 10 tests including political thought, psychological quality, and comprehensive abilities.
One such trainee is Xu Ying, chief of staff at an aircraft carrier-borne fighter jet base, who was among the first in the country to receive certification to operate a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier at both daytime and nighttime.
"During the training, I need to finish courses including ship navigation, basic combat, military training and management, strategic thinking and aircraft carrier combat," Xu said.
"I will gain the ability to command coordinated ship-aircraft operations by actually sailing warships and passing tests."
The training seeks to develop inter-disciplinary talent, as their experiences in both flying and sailing would work in synergy, Wei Dongxu, a Beijing military analyst, told the Global Times on Monday.
"I believe this is a move that aims to create top commanding officers for future aircraft carriers," Wei said, noting that this kind of talent would be practical in boosting the capability of carriers.
Many US aircraft carrier captains and officers at command posts used to be carrier-borne aircraft pilots, and this model is worth studying, Wei said.
Liu Zhe, captain of the Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, said on China Central Television in August 2017 that only the US required aircraft carrier captains to be pilots first due to the massive scale of its aircraft carrier fleet.
Liu said he was only a surface vessel officer and no pilot. He said he learned to fly trainer aircraft and helicopters, but only for a few hours.
"When we have more aircraft carriers in the future and more [carrier-based] pilots, as they grow older, there will be [pilots who become captains]," Liu said.