Beijing is recruiting the retired military pilots of Britain since 2019. The Air force chief of Britain, Mike Wigston marked the recruitment as “unacceptable”.
Reaction by Britain
Commenting on the former pilots of Britain being recruited to train intelligence agencies in Australia and the military of China, the Air Chief Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Mike Wigston, marked it as “unacceptable”. Information had been shared by the country to warn the pilots against working in China. In October, the news to modify the law to make it an offence for a veteran pilot to train a foreign military, post being warned by the country’s intelligence agencies was announced by Britain. In an interview at the Avalon Air Show in Australia, air force chief of Britain, Mike Wigston claimed the warnings to be for China.
Motive of Enlisting Foreign Military Veterans by China
The primary aim of the Chinese military programme to enlist the former Western pilots is to be prepared and acquire knowledge to combat the western opponents in any possible situation of conflict. As per legal filings, official documents, and emails, this may even include the worst-case scenario of a conflict over Taiwan. The prior knowledge of western tactics focusing the air war on future conflicts seems to be the obvious objective of this recruitment. These retired pilots possess the knowledge to fly the fighter aircrafts of Beijing and even to contribute towards the improvement of combat performances.
The UK first became aware of a tiny section of cases of veteran pilots from Britain’s military being recruited by Beijing in 2019, following further probes on a case by case basis. The COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to travel to Beijing, hindering the recruitment program, but the attempts have since escalated. An inquiry was initiated by the UK and Australia in October regarding the veteran pilots planning to take jobs in Beijing to train the pilots of the Chinese air force. In November 2022, the defence ministry of the country confirmed that they were being recruited to train the personnel of the People’s Liberation Army in the People’s Republic of China.
The UK also confirmed that these recruitments by Beijing were initiated in 2019 and that the number of former pilots going to the recruiting country increased after the COVID-19 pandemic. They were being hired via intermediaries, which include a flying academy in South Africa. The government of the U.K. asked these retired pilots to avoid such involvements with Beijing, and the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) further stated that prevention steps to avoid its serving and retired pilots taking training jobs in foreign nations would be taken soon. A spokesperson for the MoD assured that essential steps are being taken to prevent the Chinese recruitment schemes.
Experience of British Veteran Pilots
The veteran pilots have plenty of experience flying a range of aircraft that include Tornadoes, Jaguars, Typhoons, Jaguars, and Harriers. The successful attempt by Beijing to hire these former air force pilots indicates the possible involvement of more countries in similar acts of reconnaissance. More than 30 former British military pilots have been recruited by the Chinese military. These recruited personals include experienced pilots who have flown labyrinthine fighter jets. According to a post by The HK, the West has been aware of the capability of Beijing to acquire, steal, and reverse engineer the technologies of other nations for a very long time.