China's air force makes drills more realistic

BEIJING • China's air force is making its drills more realistic and less formulaic as it seeks to boost combat readiness, an official newspaper said yesterday, mapping out the latest step in the country's ambitious modernisation programme.

China has rattled nerves around the region with its plan to reform its military, the world's largest, focusing on quality over quantity and replacing outmoded equipment and tactics dating back to Soviet times.

Its air force has been a big beneficiary of the modernisation, getting new jets and developing stealth technologies, and it is also focusing on improving its training.

Combat exercises are becoming more intense and difficult, ditching the past practice of carrying out drills in line with preset plans, and adding more realistic situations, the state-run China Daily said, citing the air force.

"Commanders and pilots have been given stringent, realistic combat scenarios and are told to try their best to win," the paper said. "Now, freestyle fighting, live-fire strikes and long-range sea patrols have become regular elements in the training of the air force's fighter jet and bomber units," it said.

Integrated operations involving more than one type of aircraft and different air force units are becoming more common, the paper said, referring to an area where China has traditionally been weak compared with more Western-type militaries. "Thanks to exercises that are more difficult than before, pilots have substantially enhanced their capabilities," said air force pilot Xu Qin. Some elite units now communicate in English during training.

China's moves come as Beijing takes a more assertive line over territorial disputes in the East and South China seas as well as over self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own. It has carried out drills near Taiwan, including flying bombers past the island and sailing its aircraft carrier around it.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2017, with the headline 'China's air force makes drills more realistic'. Print Edition | Subscribe