When reports of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force focussing on pilot training and high efficiency came in the Chinese media last year, nobody ever thought that Beijing may be involved in poaching foreign pilots. The concerns have grown now.
In October, Australia and the UK had separately begun probe into reports that their fighter pilots were planning to take up jobs in China to provide training to the pilots of the communist nation's air force.
The pilots being hired by China have experience flying across various branches of the military with varied jets, including Typhoons, Jaguars, Harriers, and Tornadoes.
Poaching of foreign pilots has sent shockwaves to the global community as many saw it as just which has begun finding ways to prevent poaching.
China has hired its retired air force pilots to train the PLA pilots. Australian Defence minister Richard Marles had initiated an inquiry into whether his country's pilots have been recruited by Chinese defence forces. Australia also investigated into allegations that former Australian pilots had joined a South African flight school that operated in China.
Defence Minister Richard Marles commissioned a review into his department's policies and procedures, vowing to act if systemic weaknesses were putting Australian military secrets at risk. An initial investigation into reports Australian fighter pilots had been approached by China to train their personnel had uncovered enough evidence to justify a more extensive inquiry.
Like Australia, the UK initiated the probe stating that it would take steps to prevent its retired and serving pilots from training Chinese forces. The UK took the decision after BBC reported that up to 30 former pilots had gone to train Chinese pilots.
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: "We are taking decisive steps to stop Chinese recruitment schemes attempting to headhunt serving and former UK Armed Forces pilots to train People's Liberation Army personnel in the People's Republic of China".
China has been luring the former British military pilots with "large sums of money" to pass on their expertise and relevant training to the Chinese military.
Several reports from the UK confirmed that recruiting former military pilots were being recruited on a case-by-case basis by China. The cases went down during the Covid-19 pandemic when travel to China was almost impossible.
However, once the restrictions were lifted, the cases have gone up again.The hired pilots have experience flying across the military with varied jets, including Typhoons, Jaguars, Harriers, and Tornadoes.
"It is a lucrative package that is being offered to people," an official told BBC.
The packages are high as $270,000 in some cases. The recruitment is done through intermediaries, and a flying academy in South Africa is said to be involved. The UK government reportedly approached the pilots and asked them to stop getting involved with China.
PLA has a shortage of trained pilots?
The first group of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) fighter jet pilot cadets were trained in mid 2021 with advanced trainer jets immediately after training with basic trainer aircraft.
The Global Times had reported that it highlighted an innovative training approach that can accelerate combat capability generation.
China has adopted a new approach which allowed pilot cadets to learn about 30 per cent faster, and they got on average 30 per cent more time to fly with advanced trainer jets, claimed the PLA Daily.
It noted that training subjects included flying in tactical formation, night time flight, air combat and ground attack with a wide variety of weapons.
The PLA Daily had reported that this exploratory practice means China now has an innovative and revolutionary approach to train pilot cadets, and this will push forward the link-up between academies and combat units, accelerating the latter's combat capability generation, the PLA Daily said.
China requires pilots from so many countries?
According to western media China has been recruiting retired British military pilots in a bid to understand Western tactics and defeat Western warplanes.
Defence Expert Kris Osborn in his blog mentioned that China is adding new carriers, along with amphibious and destroyers, at a staggering speed, generating concern at the Pentagon regarding the scope and size of its growing Navy as well as its industrial capacity.
Defense editor for the National Interest Osnbornwrote that Chinese Navy is taking aggressive steps to massively rev up its fleet of carrier-based attack jets with a new generation of pilots specifically trained to operate ship-based aircraft.