China's first domestically-built aircraft carrier set out on its maiden sea trial on Sunday morning. Senior Captain Lai Yijun, the commander of the new carrier, had his debut on that day.
Lai is reported to have been the captain of the guided-missile frigate Lianyungang (Hull 522) and the leader of a frigate squadron of the East China Sea Fleet of the Chinese PLA Navy. Lai was honored as an excellent commanding officer of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) in 2010.
Lai Yijun is the third aircraft carrier captain publicly disclosed by the Chinese military. The other two are Zhang Zheng, former captain of Liaoning(Hull 16), and Liu Zhe, current captain of Liaoning. Zhang Zheng also appeared in the report of the sea trail. Zhang became a commanding officer at the level of corps in April 2017. This indicates that he is now the commander of China's home-grown aircraft carrier formation.
Chinese military experts said that a former aircraft carrier captain is uniquely advantaged as the commander of aircraft carrier formation. The unique advantage lies in the fact that a carrier captain is familiar with various situations and understands the operation of the aircraft carrier itself, the coordination between the carrier and its affiliated ships, cooperative combat operations and system operations of ship borne aircraft. So that, he is able to correctly command the aircraft carrier formation, and improve combat effectiveness and give full play to the role of the aircraft carrier formation as a whole.
The three aircraft carrier captains, Lai Yijun, Zhang Zheng and Liu Zhe, demonstrate the common characteristics of the Chinese naval commanding officers in recent years including youthfulness and international professionalism. They are all at a prime age to become aircraft carrier captains.
All three captains have good English skills. Zhang Zheng can talk with foreign military leaders directly in English while Lai Yijun once studied at the PLA University of Foreign Languages.
It is also necessary to have adequate specialized skills and professionalism to serve as an aircraft carrier captain. All the three captains have grown up step by step from grass-roots units. All three served on the frigates and as captains of surface ships. Zhang Zheng served as captain of a modern class destroyer. Liu Zhe served as captain of a new type of frigate and Lai Yijun served as the captain of frigate Lianyungang (Hull 522). In addition, they all came from the same destroyer unit of the East China Sea Fleet of the PLA Navy.
On the other hand, the three captains have their own characteristics.
Zhang Zheng joined the military after graduating from Shanghai Jiaotong University's automatic control science program and later studied warship commanding at the PLA Dalian Naval Academy. Liu Zhe was recruited as an army officer after graduating from the People's Public Security University of China, and later obtained a doctorate in strategic science from the PLA Academy of Military Sciences. Zhang Zheng also served as a deputy commander of an aviation division of the under the PLA Air Force.
However, Lai Yijun is the only captain educated from military academies. Lai graduated from the missile program of the PLA Dalian Naval Academy.
Zhang Zheng and Lai Yijun all have experienced studying overseas. Zhang studied at the Joint Services Command and Staff College in the UK in 2001.
Liu once served as deputy captain of Liaoning aircraft carrier. With the development of China's aircraft carrier fleet, it is very likely that the carrier captain will continue to be drawn from carrier officers.
Disclaimer: The author is Guo Yuandan, reporter with the Global Times. The article is translated from Chinese into English by the China Military online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article are those of the author from the Global Times and do not reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn. Chinamil.com.cn does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. If the article carries photographs or images, we do not vouch for their authenticity.