China is recruiting former fighter pilots from the West

Retired fighter pilots are under the scrutiny of Western intelligence services as some hire themselves out as consultants to the Chinese military. China offers lucrative contracts to gain strategic and tactical intelligence. Western intelligence agencies and governments are alarmed by this kind of espionage.

Daniel Duggan (54) was arrested in Australia in October. He is described as top gunUS Navy pilot. Duggan has since become a naturalized Australian; the arrest was made at the request of the Americans. Duggan is held under the same strict regime as terrorists. His lawyer complained this week about the ‘excessive’ treatment. So far he has not been accused of anything; the US suspicions are classified. Washington must issue an extradition request by Dec. 20; otherwise, Duggan will be released.

Duggan left the Navy as a major, his last job working as a tactical flight instructor. Around 2014, he went to Beijing. Shortly before his arrest, he returned from China to the Australian countryside, where he lives with his family. The suspicion that he shared secrets with the Chinese army is due, among other things, to his relationship with a former Chinese businessman, Su Bin. The latter was arrested in 2014 for stealing classified US documents containing fighter jet designs and parts, which he gave to Chinese soldiers. Su Bin pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 46 months in prison by a Los Angeles judge.

South African Flying School

Duggan and Su worked for a South African flying school, the Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA), about ten years ago. This private aviation academy has come under the spotlight as it appears to be recruiting former fighter pilots who have flown Typhoons, Jaguars, Harriers and Tornadoes into the Chinese Air Force. TFASA would arrange contracts for training missions in China. These pilots can teach the Chinese a lot about the attack capabilities of these aircraft, but also about the weaknesses. So far, no F-35 pilots appear to be involved. The F-35, or JSF, is the most modern American fighter jet, which is also used by the Dutch Air Force.

The British Security Service is now investigating TFASA and its links with the Chinese military. The British government announced in October that 30 retired fighter pilots from Britain are working in China. It is not prohibited, but the government in London fears that they may share secrets covered by the Official Secrets Act with their new employer.

The British Ministry of Defense announced it would further tighten the Military Secrets Act, making it no longer possible for China to recruit ex-RAF pilots. The British believe that the pilots know far too much about the aircraft, working methods, strategies and tactics. China is extremely interested in this, also because of Western support for Taiwan, which China considers to be its own territory and threatens to take it.

Alarm bells

Alarm bells have also rung in the New Zealand armed forces. Four former pilots now work for the South African TFASA. An army spokesman told the Reuters news agency in October that retired military personnel are free to work anywhere, but that certain decisions can still have consequences if they clash with New Zealand’s national interests. Relations between China and New Zealand have now cooled considerably due to all kinds of conflicts. It appears that the four TFASA employees are under investigation by the New Zealand military about the nature of their work for China.

Meanwhile, the Australian Ministry of Defense has launched a special investigative team to find out whether Australian pilots are working for China and to investigate how China recruits. Australia’s Defense Minister, Richard Marles, expressed concern Sydney Morning Herald very concerned about the state of things. He said he finds it shocking when Australian ex-servicemen go to work for another nation for big money. According to Marles, it is unacceptable if they teach Chinese personnel how to shoot down Western planes. Duggan’s lawyer wants his client released as soon as possible in the absence of charges, he said in Australia on Monday.

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