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The Shenyang J-11; NATO reporting name Flanker-B. Wikipedia

China recruiting British fighter pilots through South African firm

A video relayed on Twitter in April offers a rare glimpse into China's very discreet recruitment of Western pilots as it prepares for a potential conflict with the United States in the Taiwan Strait. "The instructor" betrayed a French accent in the snippets of these pilots flying somewhere in China.

Published: October 27, 2022, 6:47 am

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    French daily Le Figaro was able to confirm that it was indeed a veteran former French air force officer who ejected with his Chinese “student” after a JL-10 fighter crash: A “mercenary” recruited at great cost to accelerate the training of Chinese pilots and teach them the tactics used by NATO air forces.

    This aggressive recruitment campaign continues, as revealed by the exclusive testimony of a former naval aviator who was recently approached via a South African-based company known as the Test Flying Academy of South Africa. South Africa is part of the BRICS+ nations together with China.

    “The offer was very attractive. They were looking for qualified instructors for aircraft carrier landing,” explained “François” (first name changed), a former Dassault-Breguet Super Étendard pilot on the Charles de Gaulle in service with the French Navy.

    The Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA) is offering a contract worth around 20 000 euros per month netto, to train Chinese instructors on site for three years. It is more than the fees offered by Qatar to its foreign instructors.

    “I almost tried it. It’s not a common opportunity to have a fighter in your hands, and here I’m offered the handle of a J-11,” confided the 40-year-old, referring to the Chinese fighter derived from the Sukhoi 27.

    This pilot has already been an instructor in several countries, notably in Africa. The South African office, run by the British, serves as a front for Chinese air ambitions, targeting “pilots in need of adrenaline”, said a former soldier. Several fighter pilots have operated in China in recent years, including a former strategic forces pilot, according to our information.

    One official said around 30 former jet and helicopter pilots are now in China to train pilots for the People’s Liberation Army, in what one defence analyst described as a “breach of national security”.

    British military helicopter pilots from the Wildcat and Merlin were also approached.

    China has been trying to recruit former pilots who trained on the fifth-generation US F35 fast jet, but an official told SkyNews that he believed these efforts had so far been unsuccessful.

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