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US Air Force Confirms Deployment of B-1 Bomber to Guam as China Fights Qualified Fighter Pilots

According to the Sputnik News Agency, the US Air Force added that the B-1 bombers recently deployed to Guam were for routine mission flights, but did not respond to any country or threat.

Flight trace data shows four B-1 bombers recently deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam after North Korea launched a series of ballistic missiles, including one that flew over Japan earlier this month.

“In response to your query regarding B-1B Lancers on Guam, Bomber Task Force activities are routine and not tied to any country or threat,” a US Air Force spokesperson said.

“The acceleration of strategic competition has supported the need to strengthen alliances and recruit new partners, increase lethality and interoperability, and deter, reject and dominate aggression to promote the goal of a free and open Indo-Pacific common.”

Four B-1B Lancers assigned to the 9th Reconnaissance Bomb Squadron, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, arrive at Andersen AFB, Guam, February 6, 2017.

The spokesperson added that the Bomber Task Force missions support the larger US strategy of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific and do not directly respond to the actions of any other country.

North Korea has conducted eight missile launches since September 25 and has conducted more than 25 missile launches since the start of 2022. Pyongyang stressed that the test trials were conducted in response to the US and South Korea’s refusal to halt joint military exercises. Pyongyang says it threatens regional stability.

According to a senior US administration official, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will meet with her Japanese and South Korean counterparts in Tokyo on October 24-26 to discuss North Korea’s latest missile tests.

Is China Struggling?

China’s three aircraft carriers, two of which entered service and one launched in June, represent China’s expanding naval power. But it looks like it will struggle to take full advantage of these carriers as the country struggles to meet the growing need for skilled ship-based fighter pilots, the SCMP reported.

Citing an article published in the Chinese military journal Ordnance Industry Science Technology, the report highlighted that the Chinese Navy still does not have a fighter trainer designed for carrier-based operations, despite deploying its first aircraft carrier ten years ago.

The report cited Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie as saying that the PLA requires at least 200 skilled carrier-based fighter pilots after Fujian began sea trials last week. Fujian is China’s third and most advanced aircraft carrier.

China’s first two aircraft carriers have ski jump designs, while Fujian has advanced electromagnetic catapults. Therefore, the Navy must learn a new aircraft launch and recovery system.

“Full of challenges,” Jie noted, “aircraft design and pilot training are among the world’s most difficult and complex core technologies, and no one shares them with you.”

Dai Mingmeng, one of the first five Chinese pilots to receive certification on board, piloted a J-15 prototype on its maiden flight from the deck of Liaoning on November 3, 2012. He was 41 at the time.

China’s J-15 fighter jet

It is now training the next generation and other top carrier skilled pilots, the report said. Since 2020, the Navy has recruited cadets directly from high school graduates aged 16 to 19.

The average age of the current group of new naval aviation pilot students was 20, making them at least ten years younger than their predecessors. Following the establishment of the Naval Aviation University in Yantai, Shandong province in 2017, the PLA Navy began training its pilots rather than selecting qualified applicants from the Air Force.

The US Navy uses a similar strategy to recruit fighter pilots. However, the report describes the difficulties that Chinese Navy fighter pilots faced during their training.

T-7A Red Hawk

PLAN pilots use a single-engine, twin-seat version of the Chinese-made JL-9G as a carrier trainer. This aircraft was first introduced in 2011.

However, due to limitations such as being too light and slow, it cannot be used to simulate an emergency landing on a flight deck. As a result of these disadvantages, it has been limited to land-based simulated carrier training.

The report also noted that the United States military has used the T-45 Goshawk carrier-qualified trainer to instruct pilot students for several decades.

The Americans have since produced a more advanced derivative, the T-7A Red Hawk, allowing for more efficient ship-borne fighter pilot training. The T-7A Red Hawk is equipped with a more powerful General Electric F404 combustion turbofan engine.

What Do Analysts Think About the Situation?

Rod Lee, a Twitter user who closely follows the Chinese Air Force, has different views. HE alleged “In 2017, they [China] More than doubled the size of the annual pilot class of students from 150-200 neighborhoods to 400+ neighborhoods. They have maintained this more than 400 times in the last five years. ”

With a 50% clearance rate (probably close to 45%) and five years of training (close to 6 w/transition), this means that PLAN has brought in and will continue to bring in an additional 35 pilots from this year. to do so by 2027. This number is probably allocated to the carrier force.”

He also rejects the notion that PLAN “trains its pilots rather than selecting qualified candidates from the air force”, stating that “PLAN actively hunted PLAAF pilots. Luo Shengke was formerly a PLAAF Flanker pilot until 201.8 when he moved to PLAN.”

Shenyang J-15

“Most of the article talked about the technical limitations of PLAN’s lack of a carrier trainer aircraft, but it had nothing to do with struggling to find enough pilots,” he concluded.

Along a similar line, Brian Hart, a fellow from the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), aforementioned, “Training and retaining talented pilots is a challenge for any military. The PLA has its challenges, especially given the demands to expand its naval aviation. But let’s not exaggerate their difficulties/weaknesses.”

Chinese Marine J-15 Fighter Jet

Popular as the “Flying Shark,” the Shenyang J-15 is China’s fourth-generation all-weather twin-jet fighter aircraft. It is China’s only ship-borne fighter aircraft.

The aircraft was designed and developed by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation (SAC) and 601 Institute primarily for operation on aircraft carriers of the People’s Liberation Army Naval Air Force (PLANAF).

This fighter has been labeled as the heaviest carrier-borne fighter in the world. It weighs around 17.5 tons and can travel at Mach 2.4, or just over 2,960 km/h. On the other hand, the top speed of the JL-9G trainer is Mach 1.05 and its gross weight is only 7.8 tons.

The PLA doesn’t have the luxury of owning a trainer aircraft like the T-45, so the carrier-based training of Chinese pilot students is entirely based on flying the J-15, posing a huge challenge to hone their flying skills. [because of the absence of a back-seat coach]”The Chinese military magazine said. In April 2016, two J-15 fighter jets collided, causing one death and one serious injury.

China has built a two-seat variant of the J-15S, according to Macau-based military researcher Antony Wong Tong. However, the latest images released by the official media revealed that the platform has been converted into a ship-borne J-15D electronic warfare aircraft.

The dual-seat J-15S is still being tested in China, according to Zhou Chenming, a researcher at the Beijing-based military science and technology think tank Yuan Wang. This is similar to what the Americans did when producing the two-seat F-15E Strike Eagle and other variants of the F-15 Eagle.

However, some analysts believe the J-15’s heavier weight allows it to carry more fuel and a heavier gun load, giving it a competitive advantage in air-to-air combat.

China claims that the J-15 is on par with the US Navy’s F/A-18 and in some cases outperforms the US Navy’s main carrier-based attack aircraft. Experts believe the J-15 is capable, but will likely lose if faced with an F/A-18.

Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet – Wikipedia

“US aircraft have superior radar,” said Timothy Heath, senior defense researcher at RAND Corporation. aforementioned. “Being able to shoot from a very long distance is a huge advantage because you can see the enemy first. This gives the F/A-18 a huge advantage, even over a more agile and faster aircraft,” he added.

“The United States relies on sensor warfare, the idea that the United States can see first and shoot first to compensate for general limitations on speed, maneuverability and weapon load,” Heath said.

It is undeniable that the Chinese Navy has made significant progress in the maritime field. Still, if it hopes to compete with the US Navy globally, it will inevitably face challenges that it must resolve quickly.