By Guo Yuandan
On the morning of March 12, a fighter jet attached to the aviation force of the Chinese PLA Navy crashed during a flight training mission in Ledong county, south China’s Hainan Province, the People’s Liberation Army Daily said on its official WeChat account on the same afternoon. According to the news, two pilots were killed and no casualties were reported on the ground. The cause was under investigation.
The accident occurred in the morning was announced in the afternoon, fully demonstrating the Chinese military’s willingness and candor in dealing with the incident, according to a reporter who knew the PLA’s working procedures.
This is not the first time that the Chinese Navy has actively released news of training accidents. In August 2016, the PLA Navy took the initiative to announce the death of the carrier-based pilot Zhang Chao, the first ever pilot who sacrificed his life for the Chinese aircraft carrier cause. Subsequently, the Chinese Navy also publicly exposed the dangerous situation encountered by carrier-based aircraft pilots Cao Xianjian and Yuan Wei in the air, in which Cao Xianjian was seriously injured. After more than one year’s treatment and rehabilitation training, Cao Xianjian was able to return to Air Force pilot career again.
The news of March 12th aroused the condolences and respect of domestic netizens. On the PLA Daily’s microblog account, a netizen commented that “in peace time, although there are less actual combats, our soldiers are never far away from bloodshed. May our two heroes rest in peace!” Another netizen wrote: “Sacrifice during training is better than wartime defeat. I am saddened by the passing of the heroes. We should learn from the incident and support actual combat training!”
In recent years, with the continuous advancement of the PLA’s actual combat training, the probability of accidents and dangerous situations encountered by PLA officers and soldiers in training has also increased. It can be said like this, the higher intensity of actual combat training, the closer to actual combat, and the greater the security will risk. This means that accidents in fighter jet training are the cost that must be borne by actual combat training, which will occur in all military powers.
According to a survey by The Washington Post in 2017, over the previous three years, the number of non-combat deaths of US military was 185 and the number of combat deaths was 44. In other words, the number of people died in accidents is 4.2 times the number of deaths on the battlefield.
According to statistics from another U.S. media, in the past seven years, more than 1,000 aviation ground crew members across the U.S. military branches have been injured in various safety incidents, and only 82 people have been injured by enemies on battlefields. These statistics illustrate a reality: in the context of emphasizing actual combat training, the usual casualties are much higher than actual combat casualties.
An expert, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporter that the increased amount and intensity of training will inevitably increase the probability of accidents. This is true for armed forces in the world, including the world’s most powerful U.S. military.