In reaction to China’s hiring of 30 former British fighter and helicopter pilots to provide opponent training to Chinese military pilots, British intelligence issued a unique “threat warning.”. As worrisome as this revelation is, it is more startling that the United Kingdom has no legislative law specifically forbidding its pilots from providing training to China.
Reports of the recruiting of British pilots surfaced on Monday. According to rumors, headhunters began targeting active and retired RAF pilots in 2019. The campaign is claimed to have expanded with the relaxation of COVID limitations, and those targeted include pilots from other Western countries.
Has China recruited ex-military pilots from the United States in a similar manner? The Pentagon, the US Air Force, the Navy, and Marine Corps had not replied as of press time, but this article will be updated if they do.
The sources claim that “A “threat notice” from British intelligence “would caution British pilots not to reveal any crucial information to the Chinese military and ask those approached to notify the Ministry of Defence of what is going on.”
“Surprisingly, it discovered “no indication that any former RAF pilot has violated the Official Secrets Act in providing training to China.”. That discovery astounded retired Lieutenant General David Deptula, dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies and former F-15 Eagle pilot.
According to today’s headlines in the United Kingdom, government officials are rushing to change the country’s laws to prevent former RAF pilots from training the Chinese military. The absence of a pre-existing statutory constraint will almost definitely remain a cause of dispute in British and Western government circles for many years to come.
China’s recruitment campaign
China’s recruitment campaign is still underway, according to reports, with UK MoD officials revealing that the country is aiming to hire more current and former British pilots, “luring them in with earnings of £240,000, or more than $270,000.”
Heather Penney, a Mitchell Institute senior resident fellow and veteran USAF F-16 pilot, says the temptation is impossible to resist. She emphasizes that veteran American combat pilots routinely provide contract training to foreign countries, typically through a US defense contractor.
Penney adds that American contract-adversary pilots might provide U.S. security partners with vital training in the use of American-supplied equipment as well as insight into our operational ethos. These enhance friendly nations’ ability to work with US forces if they are called upon.
The UK may not have been paying close notice. According to sources, China may have hired the pilots through an intermediary company, with allegations that it contacted the individuals through the Test Flying Academy of South Africa, which has no ties to the South African government.
Late Tuesday, the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces Minister, James Heappey, indicated that the government intended to change the law to establish a “two-strike system,” which would result in British pilots having one warning before being penalized.
“We’ve addressed the individuals implicated and made it clear to them that we intend for them to no longer be a part of that group,” Heappey told Sources.
So far, the British reaction has been one of derision. According to reports, Tory MP and former soldier Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Defence Select Committee, called the report and warning letter “terrible.” “I would propose that any former RAF troops working with China in this context, teaching Chinese pilots to take on Western pilots,” he said.
Beijing, according to rumors, is interested in recruiting F-35 pilots, but they are not interested. Some of the pilots are in their late fifties and have been out of the military for several years. Pilots from other allied countries have also been targeted. Headhunters, as well as a specific South African flying academy, are said to be involved in the recruitment process.
However, there is no evidence that the retired pilots broke the Official Secrets Act. According to officials, the message is designed to remind service members of their obligations to protect secret material.
According to a UK defense ministry representative, the government is taking strong measures to prevent the Chinese from poaching serving and former armed forces pilots to teach PLA recruits.
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