The Chinese military is celebrating the 65th anniversary of the country's air force with a new video game that encourages players to shoot down American Air Force jets, according to Chinese media reports. The free video game comes as part of the People’s Liberation Army air force's “Golden Helmet” initiative, a propaganda campaign that portrays successful PLAAF pilots as national heroes.
A Chinese air force report earlier this year announced that 100 fighter pilots with outstanding performance records would be awarded an actual golden helmet, which “symbolizes honor, responsibility and strength, and stimulates pilots’ sense of mission and sense of honor.” The winners, as the video below shows, have been celebrated as heroes throughout the military and China’s state-controlled media.
Little is known about the actual game, other than a reported Nov. 11 release date and a cover that leaves little doubt as to who the game’s villain is. The most prominent jet in the cover is a Chinese-made Shenyang J-11, a PLAAF copy of the Sukhoi Su-27, a Russian fighter-bomber known by NATO as a Flanker and widely used by Russia, which exported it to China.) Exploding in the background, though, is an American F-15 Eagle. The fighter jet, used by the U.S. Air Force and as well as by American allies including Japan and South Korea, China's next-door neighbors, has become one of the aircraft most commonly associated with the U.S. military since its introduction in 1974 and its later involvement in various Middle East conflicts.
Stills from “Golden Helmet” are being made public less than two months after a Chinese J-11 flew within 20-30 feet of an American P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. The U.S. military jet was 135 miles east of China's Hainan Island and over international waters, the Pentagon said, when the Chinese Flanker executed a barrel roll over it. Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby was infuriated, telling the Associated Press the move was “a deeply concerning provocation.”
The game, first brought to light by the military news site Foxtrot Alpha, comes only months after the Chinese PLA released a music video showcasing J-15 fighter jets taking off from a Chinese aircraft carrier to the tune of a heartfelt ballad. That video, also released to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army, inspired wisecracks from jaded American defense bloggers who noted China has only one carrier, but it highlighted an intense propaganda campaign underway by China's military.
Beijing is also engaged in confrontations with some of its neighbors, including an increasingly tense standoff with Japan over the islands known as Senkaku in Japan or Diaoyu in China, and disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam over the possession of island territories.