China’s Air Force Lost One Pilot and Two Fighter Jets in Two Months

By Olivia Li, Epoch Times
May 22, 2019 Updated: May 22, 2019

A top grade Chinese pilot died during a special operational training mission when his fighter jet crashed due to a sudden mechanic failure on April 26, according to Chinese state-run media Beijing Youth Daily.

The report did not specify the model of the fighter jet, nor did it give any details as to where the crash occurred.

The pilot, 46-year-old Zha Xianwei who held a colonel rank, was a top grade pilot and instructor. He has participated in China’s National Day military parade twice and the military parade celebrating the 90th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

On May 18, another fighter jet crashed in Gaocun Town, Weihai City of China’s eastern Shandong Province. A local resident captured the crash, and the video was widely viewed on Weibo, a Twitter-like social media. The aircraft was seen crashing vertically onto the ground at 7:17 a.m., next to residential buildings, and erupted into a big fireball.

A Chinese fighter jet crashes in Gaocun Town, Shandong Province, China on May 18, 2019 (Screenshot/Weibo)

A netizen, who has seen the aircraft wreckage, pointed out that based on its shape, it resembled the Xi’an JH-7, also known as Flying Leopard, which was developed by Chinese aircraft experts on their own. A May 19 report by overseas Chinese publication DW News quoted an information source as saying that the fighter jet was indeed Xi’an JH-7.

It is the third fighter aircraft crash in China since the beginning of this year.

On March 12, a Chinese navy fighter jet crashed during training in Hainan Province, killing two pilots. An unverified witness posted a comment online, suggesting it was a Xi’an JH-7A, an improved version of the Xi’an-7 that entered the military service in 2005.

According to public data, since 1988, at least 12 Xi’an JH-7 crashed, causing at least 17 deaths.

Yao Cheng, a former Chinese naval officer, said that during NATO’s arms embargo on China after the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, China was unable to steal military technologies using its routine method—replicating weapons, fighter aircrafts, destroyers, submarines bought from the United States and European Union, The Epoch Times reported on March 13. As a result, China had to rely on its own scientists and engineers. The military technology and products developed during this period of time are mostly poor quality. The Xi’an JH-7, developed in the mid-1990s, is a typical example.

“I was present when the first batch of Xi’an JH-7 were delivered to China’s air force for evaluation.” Yao told The Epoch Times. “The pilots who test-flied these aircrafts told me they are very difficult and awkward to operate.”

Since the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party’s air force, in the past 60 years, more than 2,000 air force pilots died in aircraft accidents.