Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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PLAAF Fighter Pilots Still Don’t Fight like Real Fighter Pilots


(Photo : PLAAF) Crews of the two-seat Xian JH-7 fighter bombers.

The People's Liberation Army Air Force's (PLAAF) move to instill initiative, independent thinking and resourcefulness into its fighter pilots is apparently having limited success.

To deal with this situation, PLAAF has ramped-up the intensity and difficulty of its combat exercises to improve the air-to-air combat capabilities of its unimaginative pilots.

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PLAAF said its current training exercises are executed in accordance with preset plans with fighter pilots being told in advance the locations of the "enemy" units and enemy tactics.

The reason for this is that some high-ranking officers see training exercises as opportunities to advance their careers and are unwilling to let their fighter pilots make them look stupid by not following the group game plan.

PLAAF claims this is no longer the case. A PLAAF press release says commanders and pilots have been given stringent, realistic combat scenarios and are told to try their best to win.

PLAAF alleges it now encourages "freestyle fighting," which is apparently PLAAF-speak for dogfighting.

"Pilots should train in every environment where aerial combat can occur. Thanks to exercises that are much more difficult than before, pilots have substantially enhanced their capabilities," said the press release quoting a female pilot of a Xian JH-7 fighter bomber of the Northern Theater Command.

In 2015, PLAAF established an "adversary brigade" whose jet fighters are painted in U.S. Air Force colors and whose pilots are supposedly trained in U.S. air combat tactics.

This adversary brigade also deploys helicopters, electronic warfare aircraft and drones. Its pilots include "several top-class fighter pilots" who "communicate in English during exercises."

The adversary brigade uses enemy tactics, techniques and procedures to provide a realistic simulation of air combat.

The skills learned by PLAAF fighter jocks flying against the adversary brigade are demonstrated at the "Golden Helmet freestyle fighting exercise" where swirling dogfights are encouraged.

This exercise involves the use of sophisticated maneuvers, cutting-edge weapons and electronic countermeasures. The exercise is deliberately designed to test the weaknesses of Chinese pilots, forcing them to keep improving, said the PLAAF.

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