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China Is ‘Aggressively Recruiting’ Pilots from the US and NATO Countries, Intelligence Agencies Warn

American intelligence agencies are warning that China is working hard to recruit American military pilots, as well as aviators from NATO and ally countries, as tensions continue to rise in the Pacific.

The warning about China’s recruiting methods came in a bulletin published Wednesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, along with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom — countries that share intelligence with one another frequently.

“To overcome their shortcomings, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been aggressively recruiting Western military talent to train their aviators, using private firms around the globe that conceal their PLA ties and offer recruits exorbitant salaries,” Michael Casey, the director of ODNI’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said in a statement. “Recent actions by Western governments have impacted these operations, but PLA recruitment efforts continue to evolve in response.”

Private companies located in South Africa and China are working to hire former fighter pilots from a variety of Western nations in hopes of gaining insight into their methods and skills, and then pass it along to the PLA air force and navy pilots, the bulletin said.

“The PLA wants the skills and expertise of these individuals to make its own military air operations more capable while gaining insight into Western air tactics, techniques and procedures,” the bulletin reads.

The most targeted jobs have been military pilots, flight engineers and air operations center personnel.

U.S. officials have responded by putting commercial restrictions on several companies, namely

the Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA), Beijing China Aviation Technology Co. (BCAT), Stratos and others. There have also been additional legal and regulation updates outlawing former military members from engaging in employment with China after they leave the ranks.

There have been warnings in recent months about the People’s Liberation Army targeting veterans at professional events, on professional social networking sites, and through other avenues.

In September, an Air Force official told at an Air and Space Forces Association conference in Maryland that “hundreds” of service members and allies are likely being targeted by the efforts.

An Air Force news release at that time warned veterans to be skeptical of “seemingly innocuous business deals or tech partnerships” that could “gradually pull them into covert activities that serve the interests of the Chinese government.”

“These opportunities may be advertised on typical job listings or professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn or Indeed, and targeted head-hunting emails are being sent directly to the inboxes of individuals with desired skill sets,” the Air Force said at that time.

Those who are contacted for such jobs are encouraged to reach out to their service branches’ investigative office or the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


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