Fear­less fighter

Pi­lot leads PLA Air Force bri­gade in im­prov­ing train­ing, drills

China Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHANG YANGFEI zhangyangf­ei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

In the eyes of his com­rades, Se­nior Colonel Hao Jing­wen, the com­man­der of a Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army Air Force bri­gade, is “the first per­son to eat the crab” — a Chi­nese metaphor for some­one ad­ven­tur­ous enough to try risky new things.

It’s a fit­ting de­scrip­tion for Hao, who led Chi­nese war­planes on a trail­blaz­ing clas­si­fied mis­sion in 2017. In a war­fare ex­er­cise in 2014 he achieved an­other first for the Air Force, suc­cess­fully pen­e­trat­ing de­fenses for the first time at a very low al­ti­tude dur­ing night­time. And in 2016 he prac­ticed air-to-air re­fu­el­ing at a record al­ti­tude for the Air Force.

Since start­ing out as an en­try-level pi­lot in 1998, Hao has never stopped ex­plor­ing new tac­tics or push­ing weaponry to the limit. He was awarded the ti­tle of “role model of our time” on Fri­day for his com­mit­ment to safe­guard­ing the na­tion’s sovereignt­y.

Lieu­tenant Colonel Cao Bin, the bri­gade’s deputy com­man­der, said night­time de­fense pen­e­tra­tion at low al­ti­tude had seemed nearly im­pos­si­ble dur­ing the aerial drill in 2014 that took place in a desert deep in north­west­ern China.

“The night-vi­sion equip­ment was not so­phis­ti­cated enough to sup­port night at­tacks at nor­mal al­ti­tudes,” he said.

Af­ter care­fully an­a­lyz­ing the two sides, in­clud­ing weapons per­for­mance pa­ram­e­ters and the bat­tle­field con­di­tions, Hao boldly pro­posed ar­rang­ing his fighter jets in a com­pressed for­ma­tion and fly­ing at a very low al­ti­tude to break through the op­po­nent’s de­fenses.

The tac­tic in­creased the risk of planes col­lid­ing or hit­ting the ground. With­out in­suf­fi­cient night vi­sion de­vices, Hao, in the lead air­craft, re­lied on his ex­per­tise and metic­u­lous topo­graph­i­cal stud­ies to make the mis­sion a suc­cess, Cao said. “As long as he be­lieves a tac­tic will im­prove com­bat ca­pa­bil­i­ties, he will bear the risk, how­ever big it might be,” he added.

Dur­ing an ex­er­cise in 2015, the sky was ob­scured by dense clouds. Oc­ca­sional thun­der­storms posed great risks to air­craft. The ground com­mand cen­ter sug­gested can­cel­ing the at­tack plan three times for safety rea­sons, but Hao was de­ter­mined to con­tinue.

“He made one sim­ple order: Fol­low me,” said Lieu­tenant Colonel Wang Li, one of the bri­gade’s deputy chiefs of staff. In his usual lead po­si­tion, Hao steered his fighter nim­bly through the fis­sures of the dark clouds and re­joined the at­tack for­ma­tion as soon as the planes broke free. They hit all their tar­gets.

Though such prac­tice runs may sound dan­ger­ous, Hao views them as op­por­tu­ni­ties rather than risks, be­liev­ing that one of the keys to de­vel­op­ing bet­ter skills is to step out of one’s com­fort zone.

“These prac­tices mean op­por­tu­ni­ties for us in our tire­less pur­suit of stronger com­bat ca­pa­bil­i­ties,” Hao said. “For my bri­gade, as long as it can help beef up our com­bat ca­pa­bil­i­ties, even though the risks are high and many un­cer­tain­ties ex­ist, we still must do it and we will do it well.”

Hao’s col­leagues and com­rades de­scribed him as a bold and tough man who is al­ways de­ter­mined to win, even on a bas­ket­ball court. Years of chal­leng­ing mis­sions con­fronting for­eign air forces at sea have forged his com­po­sure and honed his fly­ing tech­nique to a fine edge.

“He has be­come one with his fighter jet,” said Lieu­tenant Colonel Shen Xing, a bri­gade of­fi­cer. Once when he was on a mis­sion, Hao felt that a screw might have dropped from his plane. When he checked the jet’s body af­ter land­ing, a screw had in­deed gone miss­ing, Shen said.

Hao was one of the first pi­lots to win the Gold Hel­met award, one of China’s top air com­bat honors. He has over­come nu­mer­ous oper­a­tional dif­fi­cul­ties in the use of new weaponry and for­mu­lated many dif­fer­ent sys­tems to man­age and plan mil­i­tary ex­er­cises.

“He is a man born for war,” said Lieu­tenant Colonel Wang Deng­dong, an­other bri­gade deputy chief of staff. “Although liv­ing in peace­time, he never lets go of that worry of war and con­tin­u­ously sum­ma­rizes, re­views and learns from all the past train­ing and ex­er­cises.”

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Hao Jing­wen goes through an air com­bat train­ing ses­sion.

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