RAF pilots paid £250,000 to train Chinese to shoot Western aircraft

Thirty former RAF pilots are paid £250,000 each to train Chinese to shoot down Western aircraft in possible threat to national security

  • British fighter pilots are training the Chinese to shoot down Western aircraft 
  • Officials warned up to 30 pilots have moved to China after securing contracts 
  • The former British pilots will be paid £250,000 to teach Western procedures 

Former British fighter pilots are training the Chinese to shoot down Western aircraft, officials warned last night.

Up to 30 pilots have recently moved to China after securing £250,000-a-year contracts to teach Western flying procedures, it was revealed.

Due to legal loopholes, there is nothing the Armed Forces can do to prevent the Beijing brain drain – a potential threat to national security in which Chinese pilots could be given a lethal advantage in any future conflict.

Many more top Royal Air Force pilots have been approached by intermediaries acting on behalf of the People’s Liberation Army but declined the offers, sources said.

Western officials said last night Britain was discussing with allies how to respond to the issue as they are similarly affected.

The Daily Mail has been told fast-jet pilots from Australia and Canada have also been lured to China on huge contracts.

Former British fighter pilots are training the Chinese to shoot down Western aircraft, officials warned last night (Pictured: Chinese female J-10 fighter pilot Yu Xu leaving the plane after performing at the Airshow China in Zhuhai)

(Pictured: J-15 fighter jets on China’s operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, during a drill at sea)

China wants to be the world’s most dominant military power by 2049. Its armed forces are expanding rapidly due to huge investment in aircraft carriers, stealth jets and weaponry.

The shocking recruitment programme will be confirmed today in a rare Ministry of Defence ‘threat alert’. It comes as the UK redesignates China from ‘systemic competitor’ status to a ‘threat’ to British interests.

An official said last night: ‘Serving and former advanced jet pilots are being openly head-hunted to train People’s Liberation Army (PLA) pilots in China.

Growing might of the Dragon

  • China’s armed forces include 915,000 active troops, a third of whom are conscripts
  • Its rapidly developing air force includes latest-generation fighter jets among its 2,000 warplanes
  • China’s air force is the third largest in the world, including 400,000 personnel
  • Its J-20 stealth jet from 2017 has impressed Western experts
  • Chinese defence spending is growing by nearly 7 per cent a year, approaching £200billion
  • China already has the world’s largest navy, with at least 360 vessels and three aircraft carriers
  • The RAF has 479 aircraft and 38,000 personnel. The Navy boasts two aircraft carriers

‘The recruitment schemes pose a threat to UK and Western interests. They are being conducted by third parties and the remunerative packages are very generous.

‘These personnel are almost certainly enhancing China’s knowledge and capabilities. Without us taking action, this activity would almost certainly cause harm to the UK and our allies’ defence advantage.’

The official added: ‘We are issuing threat guidance to personnel at risk of being head-hunted. We are also reminding personnel of their obligation to protect sensitive information acquired during their employment.

‘While we have no legal levers to compel people to return [from China], we need to take preventative steps.’

The practice began in 2019, slowed during the pandemic, then was ramped up once Covid restrictions were lifted in China, according to Western officials.

The Chinese use a private flying academy in South Africa to act as an intermediary as any direct approaches to RAF fast-jet pilots by Beijing would be intercepted by the security services.

Last night, the Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA), based at Oudtshoorn airfield in the Western Cape province, declined to comment on its alleged role. 

The TFASA has made offers to RAF Typhoon, Jaguar and Tornado pilots to relocate to China and become PLA instructors, according to Western officials. UK military helicopter pilots have also been approached.

The Ministry of Defence is seeking to tighten legal obligations around former pilots passing on their knowledge and experience.

A forthcoming National Security Bill is expected to include beefed-up rules including legally binding non-disclosure agreements.

Former UK defence intelligence officer Philip Ingram said last night: ‘This is a potentially massive counter-intelligence issue.

(Pictured: Pilots line up in front of fighter jets of the Bayi Aerobatics Team of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army)

‘The Chinese will try every technique possible to get detailed understandings of what the pilots know about British tactics and allied tactics, and the technologies around our military aircraft.

‘I think the pilots are… misguided, greedy and naive and now a threat to national security.’ The Ministry of Defence said: ‘We are taking decisive steps to stop Chinese recruitment schemes attempting to head-hunt serving and former UK Amed Forces pilots, who are already subject to the Official Secrets Act.

‘We are reviewing the use of confidentiality contracts and non-disclosure agreements, while the new National Security Bill will create additional tools to tackle security challenges, including this one.’

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