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China Military Recruiting Former British Air Force Pilots

The UK said it was taking “decisive steps” to thwart the People’s Liberation Army after more than 30 ex-pilots had reportedly accepted job offers

People's Liberation Army soldiers
China defence spokesperson Tan Kefei said it is open to meet with the U.S at an upcoming security forum. Photo: Reuters


China has been recruiting former and serving British airforce pilots to train its military personnel, it’s claimed.

The UK government has now said it was taking “decisive steps” to thwart the programme after UK media said that more than 30 ex-pilots had accepted offers upwards of $273,750 to allegedly help train Chinese forces how to defeat Western air forces.

While British military personnel frequently take part in training exercises with foreign armies, any collusion by ex-pilots with China – which London has dubbed the “number one threat” to domestic and global security – will inevitably pose a serious concern.

“We are taking decisive steps to stop Chinese recruitment schemes attempting to headhunt serving and former UK Armed Forces pilots to train People’s Liberation Army personnel,” a spokesperson for the British defence ministry told AFP.

The practice has been going on since 2019 but has been stepped up recently, the reports said.


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Britain’s defence ministry said it was “reviewing the use of confidentiality contracts and non-disclosure agreements”, adding that all serving and former personnel are subject to the Official Secrets Act, which prohibits UK public servants from sharing state secrets with foreign powers.

“The new National Security Bill will create additional tools to tackle contemporary security challenges – including this one,” the spokesperson added.

China’s Ministry of National Defense did not respond to calls requesting comment from AFP.

Relations between London and Beijing have soured following China’s crackdown in former UK colony Hong Kong and disputes over technology giant Huawei’s involvement in the rollout of Britain’s 5G network, as well as concerns about human rights and influence peddling.

In a speech in London this month, the director of Britain’s GCHQ spy agency Jeremy Fleming warned China’s growing technological dominance “is an increasingly urgent problem” for Western countries, urging them to act to defend their values and influence.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara




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Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.


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