This is where China will train its carrier-based fighter pilots
View Untitled in a larger map" We focused on naval aviation a lot last week, from the news about the U.S. Navy launching its X-47B stealth drone off an aircraft carrier to talking about China and India’s commissioning of brand new carrier-borne fighter squadrons. To wrap things up, we thought we’d show you (above) what’s ...
View Untitled in a larger map"
View Untitled in a larger map"
We focused on naval aviation a lot last week, from the news about the U.S. Navy launching its X-47B stealth drone off an aircraft carrier to talking about China and India’s commissioning of brand new carrier-borne fighter squadrons.
To wrap things up, we thought we’d show you (above) what’s likely China’s major training facility for its new carrier-aviation force.
As you can see in the Google Maps image above, the airfield (located about 300 miles from Qingdao, the homeport of China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning) is freshly built and the northern end of the runway features a fake carrier flight deck that appears to be used to practice carrier landings (there are clear skid marks on the landing area). The southern end of the runway features two "ski-jump" ramps that are likely used by pilots to rehearse taking off from Liaoning‘s bow-mounted ramp. (Notice how only one of these ramps is complete in the imagery above while the southernmost ramp appears is shown being built in an older satellite image of the base.)
As OSIMINT notes, the field has 24 fighter-sized aircraft shelters, indicating that China’s first carrier aviation units will be equipped with 24 J-15 carrier fighter jets.
This is likely the location where some of China’s reportedly best pilots will learn the skills and develop the doctrine that allows them to master the art of taking off, landing and flying combat missions from a tiny airfield that’s bobbing in the sea. Once this initial group of pilots has this down, it will teach future generations of Chinese naval fighter pilots
John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.
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