Australia probes possibility China is recruiting ex-air force pilots

Ryan Fletcher /

Australia is taking a cue from the United Kingdom by investigating whether its own ex-Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) pilots are being recruited by China. 

The investigation was sparked by an announcement from the UK’s Ministry of Defence that former Royal Air Force pilots are being recruited by China to help train Chinese military in air warfare. 

It is believed that some of China’s lucrative offers can be as much as £237,911 ($270,000), with British news channel Sky News reporting that a South African flying academy has acted as a third party headhunter for China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles has ordered his own department to investigate whether any Australian military personnel may have also been coaxed to work for the PLA Air Force.

In a statement seen by Australian media, Marles said that he would be “deeply shocked and disturbed” if any former Australian military member were also serving in China.

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

Marles continued: “I have asked the department to investigate these claims and come back to my office with clear advice on this matter.”

Peter Dutton, Australia’s former defence minister and now opposition leader, said that new laws should make it an offense for current and former Australian Defence Force personnel to divulge information to countries where they were not authorized to do so. 


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