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Chinese navy seeks graduate students for warplane pilot program

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Models of military equipment and a giant screen displaying Chinese President Xi Jinping are seen at an exhibition at the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution in Beijing, China October 8, 2022. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo

The Chinese navy wants to hire graduate students to fly shipborne aircraft, and is raising the age limit to expand its search as it seeks to improve the qualifications of its air personnel and build a “strong army”.

Besides upgrading its hardware from warships to warplanes, China is also trying to improve the calibre of its recruits, as the military is a career path traditionally favoured by the less educated.

In an advertisement on social media platform WeChat, the People’s Liberation Army Navy said it was seeking graduate students with master’s degrees in science and engineering who are younger than 26 to pilot aircraft from ships.

Last year, it allowed undergraduates aged 24 or below to apply for the first time. Before that, the limit was high school graduates age 20 and younger.

“The need for high-quality military talent becomes more imperative day by day,” the People’s Liberation Army Navy said in the advertisement, published on Wednesday. “The mission and tasks of the navy continue to expand. The speed of the strategic shift of the navy is being accelerated.”

Candidates must be male with a clean “political history” and no legal or disciplinary history, according to the advertisement.

Training will include three to four years of aviation theory and practical flight training. Those who become pilots will have free medical care for themselves and their immediate family, as well as government-provided housing.

China is in the final stages of preparing its third aircraft carrier – the Fujian – for sea trials, a key step before the warship goes into operational service.

China is aiming to modernise its military by 2035.

As China speeds up training of military aircraft pilots, it has also tried to recruit serving and former British military pilots, prompting Britain to block of such moves.

It has also drawn Washington’s attention. The Biden administration in June added 43 entities to an export control list, including an aviation company in South Africa that hired former British military pilots to help train Chinese pilots.

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