Chinese navy to recruit country’s first female carrier-based aircraft pilots
Published: Feb 21, 2023 10:36 PM

Soldiers and officers on the Chinese PLA Navy's hospital ship Peace Ark wave goodbye to people seeing them off on November 18, 2022 at the port of Tanjung Priok in Jakarta, Indonesia, after finishing an eight-day visit on Mission Harmony-2022. Photo: Xinhua

Soldiers and officers on the Chinese PLA Navy's hospital ship Peace Ark wave goodbye to people seeing them off on November 18, 2022 at the port of Tanjung Priok in Jakarta, Indonesia, after finishing an eight-day visit on "Mission Harmony-2022." Photo: Xinhua

 The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy will recruit female carrier-based aircraft pilots for the first time, and it's also the first time the navy will select students outside of military colleges for this position, making history for women in China's armed forces.

The 2023 recruiting program has been expanded to include new graduates from science and engineering majors at ordinary universities as well as college students performing military service in the Chinese navy and graduates who have joined the navy. Previously, such recruitment was limited to high-school and military-school graduates.

The cadets who pass the selection criteria, which will test the candidates' physical and mental qualities and flying talent, will have a chance to become China's first female carrier-based aircraft pilots.

One reason for expanding the recruitment process is the accelerated transformation and construction of the Navy, as well as the rapid development of China's aircraft carrier sector, according to media reports. Demand for outstanding carrier-based aircraft pilots with diverse specialties and comprehensive qualities has become more urgent.

On September 25, 2012, a Type 001 aircraft carrier was officially delivered to the PLA Navy and named Liaoning, giving China its first aircraft carrier. Two months later, on November 23, carrier-based pilot Dai Mingmeng piloted the J-15 aircraft on the Liaoning to complete the first takeoff and landing of a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier, giving the PLA Navy a breakthrough of carrier-based fighter aircraft aboard the ship.

Seven years later, the PLA Navy officially entered the era of two aircraft carriers with the domestically built Shandong joining the combat sequence on December 17, 2019.

"Carrier-based aircraft pilots are at the core of the combat capabilities of aircraft carriers, and the accelerated transformation of the PLA Navy means that the demand for carrier-based carrier pilots is increasingly urgent," one Chinese navy officer said.

Eligible candidates can apply online, according to the detailed recruitment information released by the Navy. The country's first female carrier-based aircraft pilot is expected to be drawn from those who pass the selection process.

A source told the Global Times that the reason for the expansion is that college students have completed four years of education and established a solid foundation for further study, which means they possess the comprehensive qualities needed to become a pilot.

Song Zhongping, a military expert, told the Global Times on Tuesday that China has about 100 carrier-based aircraft and needs about 200 pilots. It takes time to train excellent and experienced pilots, so the expansion of recruitment is aimed at selecting more talent.

More and more women are serving in various positions in the Chinese military, not just in the Navy. Many of them have distinguished educational backgrounds and experience.

A female student surnamed Qi, who became a signaler in the military after completing her freshman year in the summer of 2016, told the Global Times that she chose to drop out of her English major at a top university in Beijing to join the army because of her desire for a military life.

"Many people have long used stereotypical thinking of masculinity when it comes to the military and soldiers," Qi said, adding that neither the recruitment nor the training will be relaxed or less strict because of the gender of the soldier.

More girls are choosing to join the army to give and to discover new things in their lives, said Qi. "Take me as an example, it turns out that my English skills are also one of my advantages in working in the military," she noted.

Demand for female soldiers has become more diverse in the past seven years. "I'm so proud to see that more and more girls with outstanding academic performances and physical condition have joined us, and I can promise that they will have unforgettable experiences in the army," Qi said.