A handful of former German fighter pilots are reportedly working as military trainers in China and receiving enormous salaries, indicating yet another incident of “poaching” by China after similar patterns were recorded in the US, the UK, and France.
German media Der Spiegel and ZDF stated that some former German air force officers have been instructing Chinese pilots for years through companies in Seychelles.
German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has pledged a thorough probe.
In response to the reports, Pistorius emphasized that each unique situation “must be examined” and that “all transgressions will be punished.” The report comes when Germany is seeking a bigger role in the Indo-Pacific.
The report states that a Chinese spy organization may have employed one of the pilots.
According to Der Spiegel, security officials think it’s likely that the pilots may have shared top-secret military information, including the deployment strategies of Bundeswehr and NATO.
Giving a peek into how these former pilots ended up in China, Der Spiegel reported that Alexander H, often known as “Limey,” served as an officer in the German Bundeswehr and trained pilots for the Eurofighter combat aircraft.
At one point, he probably traveled to the US with his American lover after leaving the nation. He even registered his move in March 2013 but did not specify a destination in the United States.
Instead, he gave the airport in Qiqihar as his new address, an airbase used by the People’s Liberation Army located at Qiqihar.
The publication then deduces that it was here that the former pilot lived and worked and most likely trained Chinese fighter pilots.
According to German security authorities, it is highly likely that the pilots even practiced attack scenarios that would be useful in the event of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
The media said that while some pilots were unreachable, one of them pointedly refuted the claims.
After leaving the Bundeswehr, troops were free to engage in other endeavors, but Pistorius insisted that these endeavors must adhere to the law and their responsibilities to the military.
“There are clear rules in the Soldiers’ Act about what a soldier may and may not do after the end of their service period and what they must report. There are also clear rules about confidentiality obligations and much more,” the minister added.
The report further said that the scenario is undeniably consistent with Beijing’s typical method, or “grey beard strategy,” as described by security specialists.
Chinese authorities have been attempting for years to accept former decision-makers with privileged knowledge, some relatively recent.
According to reports and allegations made by politicians, Beijing regularly extends honors, conference invites, and lucrative consulting contracts to former decision-makers or military officers in Western countries to collect data on military utility.
The German Defense Ministry confirmed “that China is attempting, via external agencies, to recruit former NATO pilots as trainers,” including “former German Bundeswehr pilots.”
There is, the ministry statement continues, “a significant danger that not just basic flight proficiency will be imparted, but that relevant tactics, techniques, and procedures will be manifested.”
However, Germany is not the only country rattled by the reports of their former pilots imparting crucial military and aviation lessons to cadet pilots of a hostile country.
Several others, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, etc., have had similar setbacks since the last year.
When China Poached Former Western Pilots
Last year, a former US Marine pilot Daniel Duggan was arrested in Australia for violating the US arms control law by training Chinese military pilots to land on aircraft carriers, a key capability that would come in handy for PLA Air Force while conducting crucial ops on the seas, possibly against Taiwan or the US and its regional allies.
An indictment unsealed by a US court revealed late last year that “Duggan provided military training to PRC (People’s Republic of China) pilots” through a South African flight school on three occasions between 2010 and 2012.
It mentioned unnamed co-conspirators, including a Chinese national who obtained military intelligence for the Chinese military, two South African and British executives of “a test flying academy based in South Africa with a presence in the PRC,” and one South African who was a test pilot.
In October 2022, Australian police temporarily detained Duggan in the small town of Orange at the US government’s request.
However, he continues to remain in custody in Lithgow Correctional Centre in NSW pending extradition to the US on charges of conspiracy, arms trafficking, and money laundering.
Around the same time, in October 2022, the media reported that Former British military pilots were purportedly being lured to China by offering large sums of money to pass on their expertise to the Chinese military. Over 30 former British pilots allegedly imparted training to Chinese aviators.
At the time, the UK Intelligence Department issued alerts to former military pilots, warning them against working for the Chinese military. Moreover, they also stated that attempts to headhunt pilots had gotten underway and had been ramped up in light of these reports.
“It is a lucrative package that is being offered to people,” said one Western official, adding that “money is a strong motivator.” Some of the packages are thought to be as much as £237,911 ($270,000).
Similar to the recent accusations made by Germany, the British media reports stated that the former UK pilots were likely being employed to learn more about how Western aircraft and pilots function, the knowledge that could be essential in the event of a confrontation, such as one over Taiwan.
After crossing the US and the UK, these whirlwinds swept France too.
A French daily, Le Figaro, claimed that Beijing had been actively seeking skilled French instructors for aircraft carrier landings. The media outlet cited a former Super Étendard pilot who served on the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.
A mysterious South Africa-based company also contacted the former pilot. At the time, it was noted that French Navy pilots are highly sought-after targets as France is the only country with an aircraft carrier that uses a catapult in addition to the US and China, the report said.
The deal offered by Beijing was reportedly much higher than what other Air forces, including those in Qatar, pay their foreign instructors.
The former military pilot told Le Figaro that the Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA) organization offered him a three-year contract to train Chinese instructors on-site for roughly €20,000 per month.
The recent reports about former German pilots working with China, thus, are not a first.
Bundeswehr fighter pilots usually enter retirement at 41, after which they get pensions from the government, which they find grossly insufficient, and look for secondary employment. This is where offers from Beijing become luring.
- Contact the author at sakshi.tiwari9555 (at) gmail.com
- Follow EurAsian Times on Google News