June 24, 2012:
As China has increased the training flights for its pilots, it has also abandoned the old Soviet style rigid tactics. Pilots are now expected to show initiative and innovative flying tactics. To take advantage of this, last year the Chinese Air Force instituted a fighter pilot competition that culminates in an annual exercise that determines which ten fighter pilots would be able to wear a "Golden Helmet" for the next year. This is a regular flight helmet decorated with a special blue, red, and gold pattern that marks the wearer as one of the elite combat pilots in the Chinese Air Force.
More cynical members of the Chinese Air Force are wondering how long it will take before paying a bribe will help you "earn" one of the Golden Helmets. While the program is seen as a smart move to encourage competition and improve skills, many air force officers have seen too many programs corrupted by greed and a military culture that is more tolerant of corruption than it is in achieving combat skills.