UK ministers want to change the law to prevent former RAF pilots from training the Chinese military, amid reports that at least 30 British personnel are believed to have taken advantage of “very generous” recruitment packages offered by the superpower, a media report said.
It emerged overnight that British defence intelligence is to issue a rare ‘threat alet’, warning that China’s military is trying to recruit serving and former RAF jet pilots to help train its own air force, The Guardian reported.
Officials expressed “concern and disapproval” of schemes because they posed “a threat to UK and western interests”. Although they are not explicitly banning pilots from providing training, they aim to take steps to “manage the risk”, the report said.
In a latest development, the armed forces minister, James Heappey, has said the government wants to change the law to introduce a two-strike rule which would result in British pilots being given one warning before they are prosecuted.
Heappey told Sky News: “We’ve approached the people involved and have been clear of them that it’s our expectation they would not continue to be part of that organisation.”
Tobias Ellwood, Tory MP and former solider, said on Twitter that there are “serious questions for the RAF”, adding: “We should not be surprised by China’s audacity in luring UK pilots to learn about our tactics. But we should be surprised there’s nothing akin to the Official Secrets Act preventing this and the absence of patriotism of those involved.”
In a statement, the MoD said it is attempting to stop the recruitment of former and serving pilots.