U.K. Moves To Stop Ex-RAF Pilots From Training Chinese


The British government is considering making it illegal for retired RAF pilots to train the pilots of military adversaries after the RAF discovered as many as 30 ex-pilots had signed lucrative contracts to train Chinese pilots. The Times reported a South African intermediary had offered the retired pilots as much as $270,000 to teach People’s Liberation Army pilots how best to fly against the U.K.’s finest. 

The Ministry of Defence has already begun contacting the ex-pat pilots to give them some career planning advice. “We have approached the people that are involved and been clear with them that it’s our expectation they would not continue to be part of that organization, and we are going to put into law, that once people have been given that warning, it will become an offense to then go forward and continue with that training,” Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said.

The government is also going after “Chinese recruitment schemes attempting to headhunt serving and former UK Armed Forces pilots to train People’s Liberation Army personnel.” Heappey also reminded anyone who’s taken the bait or is thinking about it that they are still bound by the Official Secrets Act.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

Other AVwebflash Articles


    • Pretty much all aviation businesses have transferred knowledge and assets to China.
      I think the only issue here is that the money is going to private individuals instead of corporate interests.

  1. It’s all a giant and confusing mess. Hell no, they shouldn’t be training the Chinese. But then, every product on the Walmart shelves or any purchase of Amazon, yep made in China. Until we are able to stop that somehow, this pilot training thing is realistically a bit hypocritical unfortunately.

    • That’s an absurd conflation of two very dissimilar things. People buying the latest rubber dog turd technology from China at Walmart is nothing like teaching a near peer or peer competitor how to beat our front line jets like the F35.

      • Yes, very dissimilar things. But hardly absurd and, it reveals the effects of the failing American education system and lack of critical thinking skills.

        Do you really think Americans are still buying “rubber dog turds” at Walmart a’la 1980’s? Are you old enough to remember when Walmart had signs plastered everywhere advertising all the things “Made in the USA? Hint: it was most everything sold in the store(minus the rubber dog turds). Even with the “supply chain issues” we’ve seen in the last years, you can’t see the correlation?

        While you note the drastic difference in teaching fighter pilots vs making a purchase at Walmart, you fail to note the similar outcome.

  2. I’ve always thought that it was a bit unfair to take away something, such as flying a state of the art fighter jet, that people could really like doing, when they leave the service. That includes being told they are too old to continue flying. This comes from someone who cannot think of life without flying. So for me, I’d ask, are the pilots doing it for the money, or for the capability to continue flying? Possibly both.

    So, I’d suggest that if the RAF does not want it’s pilots to fly elsewhere, then they should pay for what they want, not pass laws making it illegal. Match what the Chinese are offering. Anything else is is just becoming as bad as the “bad guys”.

    • Do you think the Chinese are letting the ex-RAF pilots fly their top line fighters? No way. I suspect it’s more of a “spill your guts for money” exercise.

      So the UK and presumably the US should just pay their ex-military pilots whatever they want to keep them from training enemy forces? Just because one leaves the military doesn’t mean that person gets to tell anybody the classified information they learned therein.

      • “ So the UK and presumably the US should just pay their ex-military pilots whatever they want to keep them from training enemy forces?”

        The US Government does this all the time.

        If you don’t want ex-military pilots training other pilots, make them a more lucrative offer.

    • The UK government already has paid for RAF pilots to fly their top line jets. As government employees. When does the pay for fun end?

    • The ex RAF pilots can do like so many others and go fly air liners. Some for big bucks. They got their fun flying days for free. Courtesy of the tax payers. Get some fun and the big bucks for flying commercially.

          • When I was Navy Aircrew I always thought of my flights as free fun time. A4’s, helicopters, P2’s, C130’s, C118’s, C45’s, etc.. As opposed to me renting a civilian bird and having to pay for it. Now that I think about it some more, I was paid to get free flights.

          • Most Americans don’t know the cost of military service.

            I suggest visiting your local VA hospital or National Cemetery.

            Better yet, tell the vet with missing limbs or the Gold Star family that their military service “didn’t cost them a dime”.

  3. The flight training & experience was provided at the expense of the government. They should definitely have the ability how & where that knowledge is transferred.
    Similarly we have a big crisis in the US. There are over 350,000 Communist Red Chinese students in our colleges and universities sucking out technology, trade secrets, research, etc. on the cheap. There needs to be much stronger restrictions on this.

  4. I know the specifics of 20 years ago when I was given mandatory classes and threatened with imprisonment annually if I sold computer hardware to people who I had even a suspicion might be planning to resell it to the ChiComs. I know it would have been wrong for me to leave the army and go teach them my skills.

    It was wrong to let the ChiComs buy our plane companies, and we should be looking at ways to get them out of their hands. One idea might be to fight fire with fire and remove any protections they have from third party suppliers making parts. We could perhaps force them to have domestic partner companies to continue selling here. We could stop Garmin and other suppliers from sharing information. If anyone in power gave a rat’s behind, it shouldn’t be that hard to get things moving in the right direction.

  5. When China takes back Taiwan they can use all of the US and UK trained Taiwanese fighter pilots to fly Chinese fighter jets.

  6. If China tries to take back Taiwan none of these comments will matter. The end of Earth as we know it will be no more.

  7. No big deal for the Brits.They sold Communist Russia 3 jet engines post WW2 which the Russians quickly copied and put in their Mig15s which in turn shot down many of our B29s and our slower jets.The Brits are like most liberals, they hate themselves.

  8. It can be more subtle than that, the Chinese being trained where I am are ‘civilians’ from ‘airlines’.

  9. Heck, the West has been “buying” foreign pilots since the start of the cold war.
    Not sure why anyone would be shocked that it goes both ways.

      • Correct. Russia is suppose to suck it when we tell them they will be getting more NATO bases on their borders but we would threaten WWIII over a russian base 90 miles south of our border.

      • That’s one of those sayings that doesn’t really work for me. What really are you saying?

        If I slap you in the face, I expect you to be outraged and vice versa. So what? I might have earned a slap in the face, and perhaps you did not.

        Cuba was a Soviet client state, and their military was 90 miles south of us. If Ukraine joins NATO why is that something the US should feel guilty about? If you ask me there were better ideas than recruiting former Warsaw Pact countries, but the reality is the Soviets caused their own demise. They should look in the mirror for who to blame.

        Sorry to rant, but Im no fan of false equivalency.

        Im not mad at the ChiComs for buying off Brit pilots. That’s the sort of thing their government is supposed to do. Im mad at the pilots, and I think there should be repercussions and steps to prevent it in the future. And, btw, I don’t think threatening or punishing friends and families or using risky, radioactive assassination methods should be on the table.