At least two People’s Liberation Army Air Force pilots have died in testing jets slated to operate from the Chinese carrier Liaoning, according a little noticed report published by Chinese state-controlled media.
“Two test pilots of the squadron sacrificed their lives during the tests,” read the Aug. 27 report that went on to list a series of citations for the test pilots who flew the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark in testing on China’s first modern aircraft carrier.
The report provided no additional details on the dead flyers or the condition of their aircraft.
A Friday report in Jane’s Defence Weekly concluded it was, “likely that at least two aircraft have been lost.”
Naval analyst Eric Wertheim —author of U.S. Naval Institute’s Combat Fleets of the World — said the accidents were not out of the ordinary.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” he told USNI News on Friday.
“Carrier aviation is dangerous business, especially when you’re first starting out.”
Borrowing heavily on Soviet technology, China has taken tentative and deliberate steps toward creating a fully functional carrier-centric strike group using Liaoning as a technology demonstration platform ahead of a domestic carrier program.