China’s air force recruitments hit by poor eyesight of air force pilots, experts warn
A high rate of myopia or near-sightedness among school students is affecting recruitment of pilots for China’s air force, a leading military expert with the People’s Liberation Army has said, warning it is impacting national security.
“As a country having a large population, China is theoretically expected to have a large number of human resources for troops. However, in fact, China’s level of human resources for troops lies in the mid-range due to the high rate of myopia,” wrote senior colonel Dai Xu, professor at the PLA National Defence University for China Military Online, an official military portal.
China has the second largest air force in the world after the US and operates several types of fighter aircraft including stealth fighters and long-range bombers.
Explaining the situation, Dai wrote: “My colleague in charge of the PLA Air Force pilot recruitment sector and I visited a senior middle school in South China three years ago to study the vision problems of students. Based on our investigation, we found that only 8 – 10 students in a class of 40 students did not wear glasses, and there was a high rate of myopia of about 80%.”
The report didn’t say if PLA air force had a shortage of pilots but indicated it was difficult to select a candidate who could be trained to fly.
“According to my colleague, some students without glasses might be wearing contact lenses. Combined with other indexes, in a senior middle school with almost 10,000 students, it was difficult to select a student who could qualify to be trained to become a pilot,” he said.
“Based on later investigations, I found that this was a universal result. Undoubtedly, a high rate of myopia has already greatly influenced national defence security,” Dai wrote.
“The high rate of myopia in Chinese students is a reflection not only on the problem of talent reserves for our PLA Air Force’s pilots, but also on the overall health of Chinese teenagers,” he said.
One problem is that many military academies do not check for myopia.
“It is now rare to conduct modern warfare only by virtue of physical strength in field operations. However, physical fitness is still an important foundation, the Air Force especially, which has extremely strict requirements for vision,” he wrote.