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Chinese air force poised to produce ‘better trained pilots at faster rate', says report

After overcoming a series of shortcomings in its initial fighter pilot training programme China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is now “poised to produce pilots who are better trained, and to do so at a higher rate, than before”, according to a 16 February report by the US Air Force’s Air University (AU).

The paper, which was authored by Derek Solen from the AU’s China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI), states that over the past decade the PLAAF had to deal with three significant issues in the programme.

First, according to Solen, the programme was “inordinately long and gradual”. Second, the PLAAF lacked an advanced trainer aircraft that was suitable for training pilots who would eventually operate an aircraft in the PLAAF’s growing fleet of fourth-generation fighters, and third its curriculum “utterly failed to prepare pilot candidates for combat”, despite the training programme’s “inordinate length”.

Solen explained that a major factor contributing to the ineffectiveness of the programme was the inexperience of the flight academies’ instructors. He wrote that at the beginning of the decade almost all of these instructors were selected from among the academies’ graduating classes. “Consequently, for most of the decade, almost all of the instructors at the PLAAF’s flight academies had no experience piloting a fighter aircraft and conducting real-world missions,” and were therefore “ignorant of the shortcomings of the training programme”, he said.

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