Britain is trying to block China’s recruitment of ex-RAF pilots to train PLA pilots

Amid reports that at least 30 former RAF pilots have taken advantage of the “very generous” recruitment packages Beijing has offered to train Chinese military pilots, the UK government now intends to introduce a two-strike rule, which would result in British pilots received a warning before being prosecuted.

A Guardian report quoted UK Armed Forces Secretary James Heappey to Sky News that the government had “reached out to the people involved and made it clear to them that we understand they will not continue to be part of this organisation”.

“We will legislate that if people have received this warning to go ahead and continue with this training, it becomes a criminal offense,” Heappey said.

“China is a competitor that threatens British interests in many places around the world. It is also an important training partner, but there is no secret in their attempt to gain access to our secrets and in their recruitment of our pilots to achieve our Air Force’s capabilities. Understanding our Air Force’s capabilities is clearly a concern for us and the Intelligence Department of the Ministry of Defence,” the minister added.

According to a BBC report, Britain first became aware that ex-military pilots were being recruited to train Chinese pilots in 2019. Incidents were dealt with on a case-by-case basis. With the COVID-19 pandemic, when travel to China was almost impossible, attempts slowed. However, the attempts have now increased, which has led to this warning.

According to recent reports, China is struggling to find enough trained pilots to operate fighter jets from aircraft carriers, prompting its navy, with two aircraft carriers commissioned and another launched in June, to speed up the pilot training program.

A South China Morning Post (SCMP) report, citing a Beijing-based naval expert Li Jie, said that with its third and most modern aircraft carrier Fujian to put to sea, the PLA needs at least 200 skilled carrier-based fighter jet pilots to operate 130 ship planes.

Tory MP Tobias Ellwood tweeted his surprise at China’s audacity in attracting British pilots and that there was nothing like the Official Secrets Act preventing former RAF pilots from coming to China as trainers on Tuesday questioned the lack of patriotism of those who have undertaken such duties.

In a statement, the UK Ministry of Defense said it was trying to halt the recruitment of former and serving pilots, adding it was taking decisive steps to stop Chinese recruitment schemes trying to poach serving and former pilots from the UK armed forces.

Even as it reviewed the use of confidentiality treaties and non-disclosure agreements across defense, the department added that “the new national security law will create additional tools to address current security challenges — including this one.” Britain is trying to block China’s recruitment of ex-RAF pilots to train PLA pilots

Fry Electronics Team

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