China’s military has made efforts to cover its shortage of naval pilots by recruiting more cadets than expected this year, Chinese state media reported on Monday. Almost half of those recruited will be trained to fly aircraft carrier-based fighter jets. The country is facing a shortage of pilots as it commissions more vessels into service. The naval pilot entrance test, open to high school students and graduates aged between 16 and 19, is held by the Chinese navy every year. Typically, people apply during their final year in high school and their score in the gaokao , China’s higher education entrance exam, is taken into account. According to a report by state broadcaster CCTV, the gaokao scores of this year’s intake were higher on average than the first-tier universities’ baseline mark. “Among them, 49 per cent will be trained as carrier-based fighter pilots,” Chu Hanqiang, an officer from the Chinese navy’s admissions office, told CCTV. According to the defence ministry, the latest recruitment process paid special attention to hiring more carrier-based jet pilots because of the navy’s expanding needs. China commissioned its second aircraft carrier , the Shandong, in late 2019, and plans to further expand its fleet to five or six carriers. But a lack of well-trained naval pilots could hold back Beijing’s ambitions to develop a combat-ready fleet. Chinese President Xi Jinping has initiated sweeping modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army since 2015, and said “the need to build up a strong navy has never been more pressing”.