Two Chinese test pilots were killed during development of the country’s first aircraft carrier fighter wing, state media said, in a rare admission of problems with the hugely popular naval program. The admission came in a report by the official Xinhua News Agency saying President Xi Jinping had signed an order awarding honorary titles to all pilots in the first squadron to conduct take-off and landing tests aboard the Liaoning, China’s only aircraft carrier. Carrier flight operations are inherently risky, and the loss of two pilots is far from unusual.

However, China’s military still operates under a shroud of secrecy and no deadly accidents relating to the carrier had been reported at the time. The Liaoning is still conducting sea trials and Chinese defense officials haven’t said when, or even if, it will receive its full complement of aircraft. On Dec. 5, 2013, a Chinese ship accompanying the Liaoning was involved in a near collision with a US Navy cruiser, the USS Cowpens, when it was operating in international waters in the South China Sea. US Navy officials said the Cowpens maneuvered to avoid the collision, but it marked the two nations’ most serious sea confrontation in years.

Source: Philippine Star