Maintenance men assigned to an aviation brigade under the PLA Southern Theater Command load rockets onto a fighter jet prior to a live-fire flight training exercise on July 13, 2021. Photo: China Military Online
As a strong typhoon hit East China's Zhejiang Province last week, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) seized the opportunity for practice and organized warplane mock battles amid heavy thunderstorms and low visibility, in a move analysts said on Monday demonstrated the PLA's all-weather combat readiness.
During the exercise, several J-10 and Su-30 fighter jets attached to an aviation brigade affiliated with the PLA Eastern Theater Command Navy took off from an airfield in eastern Zhejiang, split into red and blue teams, and conducted a confrontational exercise, China Central Television (CCTV) reported over the weekend.
Heavy thunderstorms caused low visibility, as the warplanes from both teams maneuvered in clouds and mist, in an attempt to take advantageous positions, the CCTV report showed.
The drill, which ran from 11 am to 7 pm, was held under complex weather conditions that tested pilots' flying techniques, combat tactics and ability to deal with emergencies and high risks. It also challenged the ground personnel responsible for logistics support and maintenance, so that every warplane can sortie under the best conditions, the PLA Navy said in a statement published on its official WeChat account.
"War could take place at any time or in any season, so training should be held all the time, regardless of the weather," a commander at the brigade was quoted in the statement as saying.
Heavy rainfall could affect an aircraft's performance, particularly when taking off and landing, and requires a high level of ground maintenance, so it is important to enhance related training, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Monday.
Typhoon In-Fa, the strongest typhoon so far in 2021 in China, made landfall twice in Zhejiang on July 25 and 26, leading to evacuation of residents on a large scale as well as flight and train suspensions.
This wasn't the first time that the PLA held warplane exercises amid extreme weather conditions this year.
In March, warplanes including a J-11 fighter jet and a Y-8 transport aircraft attached to an aviation regiment affiliated with the PLA Air Force based in a desert commenced flight exercises despite a severe sandstorm. Similar to a thunderstorm, the planes encountered low visibility and challenges to their ground maintenance.
By holding exercises under different, complex weather conditions, the PLA will be ready to defend against potential enemy surprise attacks or launch such attacks against the enemy when necessary, experts said.