A former United States Marine Corps (USMC) pilot and flight instructor who worked several years in China faces extradition from Australia to the United States at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). 

Daniel Edmund Duggan was arrested on October 21, 2022, in the Australian city of Orange, New South Wales, Reuters reported, citing court records and police sources. Though the nature of the charges against him was not officially disclosed, Duggan’s arrest reportedly followed a request from the FBI regarding work he carried out in China. 

Duggan formerly flew Hawker Harrier vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) aircraft in the USMC and was also an air combat instructor.  

He then moved to Australia where he founded Top Gun Australia (also referred to as Top Gun Tasmania), a company that offers civilians to fly on military trainer jets. According to its website, the company flies the BAC Jet Provost formerly used by the British Royal Air Force, and the Nanchang CJ-6 still used to this day by China’s People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). 

The former fighter pilot is still listed on LinkedIn as the Managing Director of AVIBIZ Limited in Qingdao, China. The company is defined as a “comprehensive aviation consultancy company with a focus on the fast growing and dynamic Chinese Aviation Industry”. 

Western air forces on alert 

The news comes after a long series of similar reports that former pilots of western air forces were being recruited to train the PLAAF.  

The UK Ministry of Defence was the first to raise the alarm, with up to 30 ex-Royal Air Force pilots suspected of having been hired to train PLA personnel. Similar concerns were also raised by the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the French Air Force and Naval Aviation. 

Based on the reports, the PLAAF seems interested in military pilots with a variety of skills, ranging from conventional fighters like the Eurofighter Typhoon, to strike aircraft like the SEPECAT Jaguar or the Panavia Tornado. Duggan and other Harrier pilots from the RAF were also approached, despite the PLAAF not currently flying any V/STOL aircraft.