Australia approves extradition of ex-US Marine pilot over training work in China

A U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier aircraft
U.S. Marine Corps photo

Australia agreed to extradite a former US Marine Corps (USMC) pilot suspected of having trained Chinese military pilots. 

Daniel Edmund Duggan was arrested on October 21, 2022, in the Australian city of Orange, New South Wales, following a request from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The US government issued an extradition request on December 9, 2022, which was approved by the Australian Attorney-General’s Department, ABC News reported on December 28, 2022.  

“The Attorney-General has complied with this requirement, and Mr. Duggan’s lawyer has been informed of that decision,” the department said in a statement to Reuters

The matter should be reviewed in January 2023, with Duggan having the opportunity to appeal. 

What is Daniel Duggan accused of? 

Between 1989 and 2022, Duggan 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).  Duggan renounced his US citizenship and became an Australian citizen. 

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

Duggan is accused of providing military training to PLAAF pilots through a South African flight school, specifically on landing on aircraft carriers, on three occasions between 2010 and 2012. 

Coincidentally, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) commissioned its first aircraft carrier, the CNS Liaoning, in 2012, followed by the CNS Shandong in 2019 and the CNS Fujian in 2022. 

Over the past few months, several western air forces, including the United Kingdom, Canada and France, issued a warning after their former pilots were targeted by Chinese recruiters. The British Royal Air Force reported that some of its Harrier pilots were also approached by China, despite the PLAAF not currently flying any V/STOL aircraft. 

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