Home News Allies warn former fighter pilots not to train Chinese troops

Allies warn former fighter pilots not to train Chinese troops


For years, U.S. officials have accused China of stealing American fighter jet design and manufacturing technology. Although China has learned how to build advanced fighter jets, its pilots can’t fly them as well.

U.S. officials say that may be starting to change.

Intelligence officials from the United States and its allies warned on Wednesday that Beijing is stepping up efforts to lure former fighter pilots from Western countries to train Chinese pilots.

The intelligence-sharing partnership of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the so-called Five Eyes, said in a communique that the People’s Liberation Army was seeking to use “the skills and expertise of these individuals” to improve its air combat capabilities.

“To overcome these shortcomings, the People’s Liberation Army has been actively recruiting Western military talent to train pilots and using private companies around the world to conceal their ties to the PLA and offer high salaries to recruits,” said Michael Casey, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.

China has been strengthening its air and naval forces, and leaders in Beijing have warned they may eventually use force to unify with Taiwan. U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the findings, said there was no doubt that the performance of Chinese fighter pilots appeared to be improving.

But officials dispute how much of that improvement is due to training by foreign pilots and how much to increased flight time by Chinese pilots participating in domestic training programs.

Officials said China has been trying for years to attract pilots to train the PLA, but the effort is getting more intense. Britain issued the warning in September after tightening its laws on training foreign pilots

U.S. officials say the Chinese military has set up a number of nominally independent training centers in countries including South Africa, Kenya, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, offering recruited pilots the chance to fly a variety of exotic and advanced aircraft and paying them hundreds of thousands of dollars for their services.

Officials briefed on the findings said that while the pilots may not have initially known they were training Chinese forces, they soon discovered.

Officials would not say how many allied pilots were involved in training the Chinese military, but U.S. officials said the number was certainly in the dozens. British reports said at least 30 former British pilots had provided training to the Chinese military. Three former Canadian pilots, seven New Zealand pilots and a group of German pilots were also accused of training the Chinese military.

According to U.S. officials, China has also conducted training in addition to centers in other countries. In 2022, a Chinese fighter jet crashed and the pilot ejected. In the video footage of the incident, one of the pilots on the ground was a Westerner who spoke English.

In September, General Charles Q. Brown, then the head of the U.S. Air Force and later chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned American pilots not to assist the Chinese. “The People’s Liberation Army of China hopes to use your knowledge and skills to fill gaps in their military capabilities,” he wrote in a memo to Air Force service members.

Teaching advanced combat skills to foreigners could quickly lead to legal action. In addition to prohibiting weapons sales, the Arms Export Control Act prohibits the training of foreign militaries without permission from the U.S. government.

The United States has been trying to extradite a former Marine pilot. Daniel Dugan, On trial for allegedly training Chinese pilots.

Dugan was indicted in 2017 on charges that he trained Chinese pilots in 2010 and 2012. But the indictment was not made public until he was arrested in Australia in 2022. Dugan has denied the charge and has been fighting his extradition to the United States.

Intelligence officials said Wednesday’s announcement was intended to discourage active or retired military personnel from participating in the training. Casey said such actions would “put their fellow service members at risk and undermine our national security.”

U.S. officials say China is not only trying to learn U.S. and allied air tactics from former pilots, but is also stepping up its Using drones, balloons and other technology to monitor military exercisesThese efforts sometimes result in reports of unidentified objects near military bases.

Pentagon officials believe Puzzling sightings of unidentified objects Compared to relatively common drone technology, they said the drone and balloon surveillance is part of Beijing’s efforts to gain better understanding of how U.S. fighter jets take off and operate from aircraft carriers.

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