A pilot cadet of the PLA Naval Aviation University operates his JL-9 fighter trainer during flight training in Hebei province. Photo by Lan Pengfei/China Military.

China’s carrier-based fighter pilots will soon have a new trainer jet to practise those precise landings on the rocking decks of new flat-tops that will some day patrol the China Sea.

The prototype of the newly modified version of the Naval Mountain Eagle jet trainer is now preparing for its maiden flight after its production was completed on Sunday, The Global Times reported.

China is in desperate need to train more aircraft carrier-based fighter jet pilots, analysts said on Tuesday.

Under the full support of military representatives, the prototype in the Naval Mountain Eagle project was delivered on Sunday evening, the report said.

It marks a milestone in the project, as the aircraft is on schedule, according to aircraft maker Guizhou Aviation Industry Corporation under the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), in a statement released on its WeChat account.

While the Guizhou company did not elaborate on the project, it said in a separate statement in March that the goal was to “win a new victory in developing and producing the Naval Mountain Eagle.”

A JL-9 fighter trainer attached to the PLA Naval Aviation University taxis on the runway after finishing flight training in Hebei province. Photo by Lan Pengfei/China Military.

The statement came with a picture showing an aircraft carrier at sea, with a Naval Mountain Eagle flying above the carrier and J-15 fighter jets parked on the carrier’s flight deck, the report said.

This had led Weihutang, a column on military affairs affiliated with China Central Television, to say that this project is likely a modification of the original Naval Mountain Eagle, enabling it to become an aircraft carrier-based trainer.

The Naval Mountain Eagle trainer, designated as the JL-9, is already in service with the Chinese PLA Navy, the report said. It can only operate on land-based airfields and simulate aircraft carrier operations.

China does not have an aircraft carrier-based trainer jet to train fighter pilots and have to first train them on a land-based trainer, then switch directly to the actual J-15 fighter jet, a military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times.

Meanwhile, the PLA Navy recently held training sessions for aircraft carrier-based fighter jets and helicopters in the Bohai Bay area, experts said this week.

J-15 aircraft carrier-based fighter jets recently conducted a buddy refueling exercise in the Bohai Bay, China Central Television (CCTV) reported.

Buddy refueling means that a J-15 equipped with a refueling pod feeds other J-15s, enabling them to extend endurance in the air and carry more weapons and less fuel when taking off from the carrier, which is an often-used method also by foreign navies, the report said.

After finishing buddy refueling, the J-15s were split into two teams and conducted mock battles of dogfights, aerial interceptions, and sea attacks, CCTV reported.