Chinese navy aims to make students fighter pilots as ‘military mission is accelerated’

Beijing has said ‘the need for high-quality military talent becomes more imperative day by day’
Beijing has said ‘the need for high-quality military talent becomes more imperative day by day’ - FLORENCE LO/REUTERS

The Chinese navy has launched a recruitment drive aimed at transforming post-graduate students into fighter pilots, saying it is “imperative” to attract more talent as Beijing accelerates military modernisation plans.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy said it was seeking individuals below the age of 26 with science and engineering master’s degrees to fly carrier-based jets.

The advertisement, posted on its WeChat social media account on Wednesday, marked a new upper-age limit for recruits and the first time it has targeted such a highly educated group.

“The need for high-quality military talent becomes more imperative day by day,” the advertisement said. “The mission and tasks of the navy continue to expand. The speed of the strategic shift of the navy is being accelerated.”

The navy said it would examine whether prospective recruits “love the [Chinese Communist] Party, love the motherland, love the people, and love socialism”, as well as measuring them against stringent educational and physical requirements.

‘No legal history’

Candidates must be male with a clean “political history” and no legal or disciplinary history, according to the advertisement.

Those enlisted as part of the drive will begin service next year as China has already completed its pilot recruitment selection for 2023, with the process concluded in August.

The previous selection process was expanded to include not only high school leavers and military academy students but also fresh graduates from the country’s leading universities, aged 24 or below, for the first time. Before that, the limit was high school graduates aged 20 and younger.

Those groups are also being targeted in the latest recruitment drive.

Once recruited, the new cohort will undertake two months of enlistment training and general military exercises before receiving three to four years of instruction in aviation theory and flight training.

Free education

Those who qualify as navy pilots will receive free medical care and education as well as government-provided housing. Their relatives will also be eligible to receive such perks.

The drive comes amid a push by Beijing to modernise China’s military by 2035.

‘Winning wars’

Xi Jinping, the president, has said the country must become a “world-class” military power with armed forces capable of “fighting and winning wars”.

In July, he urged the military to deepen war and combat planning to increase the prospect of victory in any future conflict.

China has ramped up its holding of military drills in recent years amid deteriorating ties with Western powers, most notably the United States, and other nations in the region, including India.

Experts say the exercises are intended to send cautionary political messages to rival capitals in China’s immediate vicinity and beyond.