A Chinese navy fighter jet crashed Tuesday during a training mission in the southern island province of Hainan, situated in the South China Sea, which killed both pilots, according to the People’s Liberation Army-Navy.
The crash took place in Ledong County in the mountainous and heavily forested tropical province. The cause of the crash was under investigation.
No casualties were reported on the ground, and the Navy didn’t say in a statement published on Weibo what type of plane was involved.
Situated in the South China Sea, Hainan has multiple military installations that have been built up amid China’s flexing of its muscular might in the Pacific, according to the AP.
The incident follows another similar incident in January 2018, when at least 12 crew members died after 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 three accidents involving the Navy’s J-15 “Flying Sharks,” which have been attributed to an ongoing shortage of qualified pilots, according to the South China Morning Post.
According to several military commentators, China’s military expansion program, which includes the building of new aircraft carriers and purchase of new warplanes, has resulted in a serious shortage of qualified pilots. To fill the vacancies, the Chinese military has started a major recruitment drive while bolstering training programs for pilots.
Speaking on the sidelines of the ongoing legislative meeting in Beijing Feng Wei, a PLA pilot from the Western Theatre, said the military was currently intensifying its pilots’ training as increasing amounts of new equipment entered service.
“Personnel quality is the key to everything,” he added.
Video of the crash circulated on Chinese-language social media.