Cloud seeding new role for ex-Flying Tiger base

AP News
Posted: Oct 14, 2014 2:18 AM
Cloud seeding new role for ex-Flying Tiger base

BEIJING (AP) — An airfield in southern China from which the famed Flying Tigers took off to fight Japanese warplanes is being converted to battle a new enemy: drought.

Aircraft equipped for cloud seeding operations began using World War II-era Zhijiang Airport in Hunan province last month as part of a trial operation, China's official Xinhua News Agency said Tuesday.

Known as China's rice basket, Hunan suffered its worst drought in decades last year, causing nearly $2 billion in losses to farmers. China has experimented heavily with cloud seeding to combat declining rainfall across large parts of the country, using both planes and ground artillery.

Built in 1936 and also known as Chih Chiang, the airfield once hosted volunteer American pilots recruited to aid China's war efforts against the invading Japanese army from 1941 to 1942. The Flying Tigers were later incorporated into the U.S. military, but retained their planes' distinctive shark-mouth nose art.

The unit remains a potent symbol of U.S.-China wartime cooperation in the years before the 1949 Communist takeover of power that brought on more than two decades of hostility and estrangement between the sides.