Anshan, China: In a move apparently aimed at defusing tensions in the region, and also aimed at addressing persistent demands by the West that China show more transparency in its defence planning, Chinese military officials let the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, Marine Gen Peter Pace, examine a Su-27 top-of-the-line combat aircraft. A US Dept of Defence communiqué said that Gen Pace also spoke with Chinese pilots and ground personnel here.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace and his party toured Anshan Air Base, home of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force's 1st Air Division, and examined a Chinese-built Su-27 fighter-bomber. They were also treated to some acrobatics by four of these aircraft subsequently.
According to the US department of defence, Pace's stopover at the base was part of a visit to China's Shenyang Military Region. The 1st Air Division has three flying regiments equipped with Su-27s, F-8s and F-7Es. The Su-27 is a top of the line fighter in the PLA Air Force inventory, and Pace was the first American to get such a close look at the aircraft, senior Chinese officials said.
Apart from getting into the cockpit of a Su-27, Gen Pace also spoke to the PLA Air Force personnel, asking them about their service, the qualities of their aircraft and their training and experience. Gen Pace said that they appeared highly motivated and impressed him with their professionalism.
Chinese officials told Gen Pace that their pilots averaged 120 hours of flying time per year, with roughly 35 per cent of training being done at night. They also said that they had about 130 pilots for the 100 aircraft in the unit. According to the US Dept of Defence, in comparison, US Air Force pilots average about 250 flying hours per year and there are roughly 120 pilots per 100 aircraft.
Pace thanked the Chinese personnel and told the airmen that the United States and China have many common national interests and that it is in Asia's and the world's interest for the two countries to cooperate.
During the visit, the base commander also pinned a set of Chinese pilot wings on Pace's uniform, prompting Gen Pace to remark that though he did not earn the wings he would wear them as a compliment to their professionalism.