Chinese Naval Aviation to Allow Female, Non-Military College Pilots for the First Time

February 21, 2023 1:50 PM
People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier Shandong berths at a naval port in Sanya, China. PLAN Photo

For the first time, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is recruiting females and graduates from non-military colleges to be naval aviators, it announced through a recruitment drive released Monday.

The call for female aviators is part of the PLAN’s naval pilots recruitment this year, with successful candidates scheduled to enter the service in three or four years, according to a brochure.

“As a strategic service with complete arms and both nuclear and conventional weapons, the navy plays a very important role in the overall situation of national security and development. Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, the missions and tasks of the naval forces have been continuously expanded, and the strategic transformation has been accelerated, and the demand for high-quality military personnel has become increasingly urgent,” reads a translation of the brochure.
“We welcome young men and women who love national defense, are committed to the sea and the air, and are well-rounded to apply, so that they can dedicate their youth to building a world-class navy and contribute to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation!”

Potential recruits must be recent graduates who are majoring in science, technology or engineering, although single undergraduates from certain streams who are under 24 as of June years old will also be considered. Candidates must also be loyal to the Chinese Communist Party with a clean political personal and family history, as well as no record of criminal or disciplinary punishment.

Candidates will have to pass a preliminary screening process by the end of March, which consists of medical and physical examinations in hospitals, and submit the results to the PLAN recruiting network. Those tentatively accepted by the PLAN move on to the comprehensive testing phase at the navy recruitment inspection station, which involves physical examination, psychological examination and political assessment. This phase is to be completed by the end of April.

Those that pass then moved on to flight tests to assess their suitability for naval aviation, which is to be completed before early June. The PLAN will select the best candidates for admission by early July. Those admitted then carry out two months of basic training before entering the Naval Aviation University in Yantai, Shandong Province, for three to four years of flight and aviation theory training before graduating for assignment.

With a third carrier, CNS Fujian (18) to undergo sea trials this year with an expected 2024 operational date, the PLAN will need to increase its pool of naval aviators to not only meet Fujian’s requirements but also for any additional carriers in future.

The Naval Aviation University already has its own cadet pilots recruited from age 16, but the call for female candidates indicates there is still a shortfall of candidates suitable for naval aviation training. The PLAN has had women in its ranks for several years. In April, state-controlled media announced the first commander of a guided-missile destroyer.

China has among the lowest percentage of female pilots in the world overall. According to a 2018 report in Reuters, only about 1.8 percent of Chinese pilots are women. As of the end of 2022, 9.5 percent of the 756,928 pilots licensed to fly in the U.S. by the FAA were women.

Last year, a Chinese military magazine, Ordnance Industry Science Technology, reported that the lack of a dedicated two-seat trainer version of the J-15 fighter was hampering the PLAN’s efforts to produce sufficient naval aviators. The JL-9G trainer is much lighter and slower than the J-15 and thus unable to replicate the J-15’s handling. Trainee pilots soloing on the J-15 also lack an instructor in the back to coach and provide guidance.

China is also working to have its pilots get naval aviation training from retired western pilots. Western countries are tightening restrictions on such training, including taking action against retired personnel who teach Chinese pilots.

Australia is one country that is working to prevent retired personnel from training the Chinese. Defence Minister Richard Marles told radio station 2GB that additional legislation is being considered to stop such training.

“And that is really to make sure that there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that not just the secrets that people might come into contact with, but everything that surrounds it, forms part of that. And that if you release any of that information to anybody, and that would include a foreign power, that would be a breach of Australian law and subject to prosecution,” Marles said.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

Get USNI News updates delivered to your inbox