China Is Looking For Pilots To Fly Its J-20 Stealth Fighter

David Axe

Key point: Around 2016 the PLAAF reformed its pilot training to make it more realistic.

The Chinese air force has tapped a charismatic young pilot to be the spokesman for its growing force of J-20 stealth fighters.

Bai Long, 29, rose to fame while flying a twin-engine J-16 fighter during the People's Liberation Army Air Force's 90th-anniversary celebration in 2017.

Bai apparently has converted to the twin-engine, stealthy J-20. In 2018 Bai told a reporter his dream was to "fly China’s most advanced fighter jet." That's "an ambition he has now officially achieved," the Hong Kong South China Morning Post reported.

In early January 2019, the PLAAF released a promotional video encouraging young people to enlist in the air arm. The video is part of a recruitment drive that the PLA has organized in 31 of the country’s 33 provinces, according to the South China Morning Post.

Bai prominently features in the video. He's also the face of the PLAAF's official video celebrating China's popular Spring Festival. That video depicts J-20s and J-16s and single-engine J-10 fighters flying in formation.

According to the South China Morning Post, Beijing hopes Bai's recruitment drive will help staff PLAAF squadrons as the air force re-equips with hundreds of new aircraft every years, including 100 new fighters.

In 2018 China possessed more than 3,000 military aircraft, according to Flight Global's annual aircraft survey. Russia had 3,900 warplanes and helicopters in 2018. The United States at the time possessed the largest military aircraft fleet, with 13,400 planes and helicopters.

"China’s demand for pilots is huge," the South China Morning Post explained.

The U.S. Air Force requires 23,000 pilots for its own 5,500-plane fleet. If the PLAAF's manpower requirements proportionally are similar, then it overall could require as many as 12,000 pilots. The U.S. Air Force aims to train 1,500 new pilots every year. The PLAAF annually might need to produce at least a thousand new pilots annually.

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