Chinese airmen hone skills in international competition

Zhang Tao

BEIJING, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) - As millions of Chinese watched the Rio Olympics, members of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) were following another international competition -- one with bombs and explosions.

Wang Xiaojun, a pilot with an aviation brigade of the PLA Air Force, was a member of the Chinese delegation to Russia's 2016 International Army Games, in which servicemen from 19 countries competed for the top spot in 23 events.

Flying a China-made fighter-bomber JH-7, Wang's crew took part in the Aviadarts competition, which wrapped up on Aug. 6, and was runner-up in the event.

"It was a great opportunity to prove the Chinese Air Force's strength to the world, demonstrating the fine skills of Chinese airmen and the strong performance of domestic equipment," said Wang.

In the second stage of the Aviadarts contest, all crews were required to conduct comprehensive strikes against ground targets within a time limit and defined airspace.

The Chinese crew defeated all teams from Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus in this stage, accurately hitting all simulated targets with four air-to-ground rockets and one bomb.

"When we were flying at a speed of 800 to 850 kilometers per hour and a height of 700 meters, the ground targets in sight were much smaller than the bull's eye in Olympic shooting matches," Wang said, explaining how difficult the competition was.

As soon as the Aviadarts contest concluded, the brigade began intensive exercises for visual reconnaissance, which the competition revealed to be a weak spot for Chinese pilots.

"Some of the basic skills of pilots, such as visual reconnaissance, have degenerated, as we have become a bit too dependent on advanced technology," said brigade commander Shen Yuanzhong, also a judge for this year's Aviadarts, who found Chinese pilots' performance weak compared with the Russian air force.

According to Shen, his brigade plans to conduct more exercises and drills with live ammunition and real ground targets to enhance airmen's ability in combat response, another lesson the Chinese air force took from its Russian counterparts during the competition.

In past years, the PLA Air Force has adopted a more open and confident attitude in its exchanges with foreign troops, with the aim of identifying and filling the gaps between its abilities and those of other major military powers.

The PLA Air Force has participated in the Aviadarts contest for three consecutive years. Last year, the Chinese air force also participated in other international military events, including four joint drills and the Altyn Yki-2015 international competition held in Kazakhstan alongside the United States, Russia, and other countries.