A Chinese state-owned newspaper has denied international media reports claiming that two People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) pilots were killed during the test phase for the J-15 carrier-borne combat aircraft.
Several international news outlets cited a 27 August report by the Xinhua state news agency of a commendation order signed by President Xi Jinping for Liaoning ‘s J-15 squadron, including Commander Dai Mingmeng, who was honoured as a “Heroic Test Pilot” at a ceremony convened by the Central Military Commission.
The reports alleged that the commendation mentioned two pilots from a J-15 squadron who were killed while conducting aircraft trials related to Liaoning ‘s air operations. This revelation was hailed as rare admission of Chinese operational military fatalities, since such accidents are rarely reported in the country.
In a report published on 7 September, People’s Daily journalist Yan Jiaqi quoted military sources as saying that the citations are incorrect and that the persons who died were not pilots in the carrier wing but “comrades” who died while working on the J-15 project. The report also emphasised that the deaths were not related to the carrier tests. However the paper has stopped short of elaborating on the fatalities.
The report also partially blamed microblogging sites in China for proliferating what it calls the “inaccurate reports”.
Liaoning recently came out from dry dock after four month’s maintenance in the Dalian shipyard and is expected to sail back to its home port near Qingdao in the eastern coastal province of Shandong.