Ex-RAF pilots recruited by S.African firm warned about training Chinese military pilots
Retired members of the British Royal Air Force who were recruited via a South African company to train pilots in China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) must be fully aware of the risk of prosecution under the Official Secrets Act, the British Defense Ministry has warned in its rare “threat alert”.
China has been recruiting former British military pilots to train their own personnel, Britain’s defense ministry said in a statement this week, warning that it “erodes the UK’s defense advantage” and that steps are being taken to stop it. When former UK military pilots provide training to the PLA, it clearly erodes the UK’s defense advantage.Therefore, the Ministry’s Defense Intelligence Service warned on Tuesday (18 October) that it is taking immediate steps to deter and penalize this activity because British pilots who transfer expertise to the Chinese military could be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act.
Many of the pilots were being recruited through the Test Flying Academy of South Africa, according to reports by multiple media outlets. This private company in a remote, semi desert area in the Western Cape, has allegedly been acting as a headhunter for the Chinese. The company has a long history of involvement with China, saying on its website that it provides training to cadets from various Chinese airlines, as part of a deal with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), a state-owned aerospace and defense conglomerate. The website also says the company has experience with several aircraft used by the PLA. Many of the 30 pilots believed to be involved were reportedly lured to work in China with the promise of lucrative salaries. Pilots from other allied nations have also been targeted.