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Two pilots killed in China's naval plane crash

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BEIJING (PTI): Two Chinese navy pilots were killed Tuesday when their plane crashed on to a water tower during a training mission in the southern island province of Hainan, the military said.

The crash happened during a training exercise over rural Ledong county in the southern island province.

There were no casualties on the ground and an investigation is underway to ascertain cause of the accident, the navy said in a statement.

The Peoples Liberation Army's (PLA) official statement did not specify the type plane that crashed, although unverified witness account online said it was a twin-seat Xian JH-7 "Flying Leopard", Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

A mobile phone camera footage posted on Chinese social media showed smoke rising from piles of wreckage next to a damaged water tower as bystanders gathered at the site.

The person who uploaded the footage said the plane hit the water tower before crashing into the ground.

The JH-7, which entered service with the navy and air force in the 1990s, has been involved in a number of fatal accidents over the years, it said.

China's worst military air accident in recent years happened in January 2018. At least 12 crew members died when a PLA Air Force plane, believed to be an electronic reconnaissance aircraft, crashed in Guizhou in the southwest of the country.

Between 2016 and 2017, there were at least four accidents involving the navy's J-15 "Flying Sharks", one of them resulting in the death of the pilot, the Post reported.

Military commentators have previously said that China's drive to improve its combat readiness, which includes the building of new aircraft carriers and warplanes, has resulted in a serious shortage of qualified pilots.

To fill the vacancies the Chinese military has started a major recruitment drive and intensive training programme for pilots, the report said.

According to figures, from the end of 2016 there were only 25 pilots qualified to fly the J-15, while 12 others were in training. Most of the Chinese navy's pilots have been redeployed from the air force, which is itself in need of more trained pilots, the report said.

This year the Chinese navy for the first time began a nation-wide programme to scout potential pilots for its aircraft carriers, it said.

China currently has one aircraft carrier, while the second one is undergoing sea trials and the third one is under construction.

According to official media reports, China plans to have five aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing legislative meeting in Beijing, Feng Wei, a PLA pilot from the Western Theatre, said the military is currently intensifying its pilots' training as increasing number of new equipment entered service, the Post report.

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China  Navy  Pilot  Crash  Military  
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