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Date: 11th Dec 2014, Thursday

Updated PLAAF

The Peoples' Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) have made recruiting and training changes are part of a trend since the 1990s in which China has been gradually creating a Western style air force. It's not just with modern aircraft but with modern training methods and tactics as well. While China has only about 600 modern aircraft (comparable to the American F-15/16/18/22), it's their improved training that is of interest. The U.S., Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea have over five times as many such aircraft and well trained pilots. China, however, is rapidly closing the gap. In another 10 to 20 years, China will have at least two thousand modern warplanes and, if they keep at it, pilots close to the capability of their Western counterparts.

PLAAF has made some major changes in how it recruits pilots. The new procedures include psychological tests as well as the use of realistic flight simulators to see how candidates would react to a variety of flight situations. This appears to be borrowing from techniques Western air forces have long used, perhaps because Chinese commanders noted the strange (often reckless or careless) behavior of some pilots as well as the high failure rate of pilot trainees. All this was noted as China implemented new training methods in the last few years, and found that the kinds of men (and some women) they had previously recruited for pilot training were not adapting well to the changes.

The new training program is actually an evolution of the need for new training methods to prepare pilots to handle the more modern aircraft. Training for pilots of these new fighters has been more intense than for any previous aircraft. In addition, China is also holding training exercises directed at fighting other modern fighters. China is not keeping much of this secret and that is apparently sending a message to potential foes. In line with that, China now has a “Top Gun” type training center, where they can train their best fighter pilots and identify who is likely to be an ace in combat.

Updated On: 18.10.15