Updated June 10th, 2024 at 15:37 IST

Five Eyes Report Warns of China’s Recruitment of Western Military Pilots

The report indicates that China uses private companies in South Africa and China to recruit these pilots by offering substantial salaries.

Reported by: Yuvraj Tyagi
Representational | Image:Chinamil

Washington, D.C.- A report released Wednesday by the United States and its intelligence allies, collectively known as the Five Eyes, revealed that China has been actively recruiting fighter pilots from Western nations to enhance its air defence capabilities and refine its tactics against the West, as reported by Voice of America (VOA).  

The Five Eyes, a security alliance formed post-World War II, comprises the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. This alliance monitors global threats, including ongoing conflicts such as the Israel-Hamas situation in West Asia, Russia's military actions in Ukraine, and what they describe as China's unprecedented global espionage campaign.  


Recruitment Through Private Companies  

According to the Five Eyes report, China has been utilizing private companies based in South Africa and China to recruit these pilots. By offering substantial salaries and leveraging personal connections, professional networking sites, and online job platforms, these companies obscure any direct links to the Chinese government or military. This strategic recruitment provides China with invaluable insights into Western air combat tactics and training methodologies.


"We're issuing this joint bulletin today because this is a persistent threat that continues to evolve in response to Western countermeasures. Like any illicit enterprise that seeks to conceal its activities, there have been efforts to incorporate entities in different locations under different names," stated an official from the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center. "It's critical that we keep our current and former service members informed about this threat, which is directly targeting them," the official added.  

Targeting Western Military Pilots  

The bulletin indicated that China’s recruitment efforts are focused on current and former military pilots from Five Eyes countries as well as other Western nations, including France and Germany. Despite the severity of these allegations, the Chinese Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the claims regarding the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) attempts to hire Western fighter pilots.

British defence officials had previously warned about China's recruitment efforts targeting retired members of the British Royal Air Force, starting in October 2022. In response, last year, the US imposed restrictions on 43 Chinese entities involved in such recruitment activities. These entities included a flight school in South Africa and a security and aviation company founded by former US Navy SEALs with operations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kenya, and Laos.  


Implications and Countermeasures  

The recruitment of Western fighter pilots by China poses significant security concerns. By obtaining training and insights from experienced Western pilots, China can potentially counter Western air tactics more effectively. The Five Eyes alliance emphasizes the importance of vigilance and proactive measures to mitigate this evolving threat.  


As this situation develops, the Five Eyes countries continue to collaborate and share intelligence to counter China's recruitment strategies and safeguard their military personnel from being targeted. The global security landscape remains complex, with China’s recruitment efforts adding another layer of intricacy to the existing geopolitical tensions.  

The Five Eyes report serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing espionage and recruitment efforts that nations must be aware of and actively counter to protect their national security interests. 


Published June 10th, 2024 at 15:37 IST