A carrier-borne aviation force has been formally established as part of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, military sources said on Friday.
The forming of the force, approved by the Central Military Commission (CMC), demonstrates that the development of China’s aircraft carriers has entered a new phase, the sources said.
The force comprises carrier-borne fighter jets, jet trainers and ship-borne helicopters that operate anti-submarine, rescue and vigilance tasks.
The sources said the carrier-borne force is vital to the strike force of China’s aircraft carrier and a vanguard in transforming its navy. It will also play a key role in developing aircraft carrier groups and building a strong navy.
Wu Shengli, a member of the CMC and commander of the PLA Navy, attended the forming event on Friday.
The sources said the personnel of the force are more elite than the aviation forces within the PLA. To be able to fly fighter jets, the pilots should have flown at least five types of aircraft and their flight time must exceed 1,000 hours.
Rich experience in joint drills and major drills is also a prerequisite. The pilots also received training in courses like warship theory, nautical basics, and maritime meteorology.
Currently, China operates one aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, which was refitted based on an unfinished Russian-made carrier and delivered to the Navy on Sept. 25, 2012.
The carrier’s original design allows it to carry about 30 fixed-wing aircraft.
The Liaoning has conducted successful take-off and landing tests of its carrier-borne J-15 fighters, the main strike force of China’s carrier group.