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Australia, UK launch probe into their fighter pilots being lured by China

The Australian Air Force (Photo: @AusAirForce/Twitter)

Australia and the UK are separately conducting inquiries into reports that their fighter pilots are planning to take up jobs in China to provide training to the pilots of the communist nation’s air force.

Australia launched an investigation on Wednesday into reports that China has been hiring its retired air force pilots to train the PLA pilots. Australian Defence minister Richard Marles has initiated an inquiry into whether his country’s pilots have been recruited by Chinese defence forces.

Australia will also investigate allegations that former Australian pilots had joined a South African flight school that operated in China.

Marles said in a statement: “I would be deeply shocked and disturbed to hear that there were personnel who were being lured by a paycheck from a foreign state above serving their own country”.

The Australian decision follows a similar investigation by the UK, which said on Tuesday that it was planning to take steps to prevent its retired and serving pilots from training Chinese forces. This came up after the BBC reported that up to 30 former pilots had gone to train Chinese pilots.

Western media reported that China has been recruiting retired British military pilots in a bid to understand Western tactics and defeat Western warplanes.

The British government now plans to modify the law to prevent its pilots from training the Chinese army. A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “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 in the People’s Republic of China”.

The statement added that all serving and former personnel are already subject to the Official Secrets Act and the British pilots could even risk being prosecuted under existing laws.