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US and allies warn China is intensifying its efforts to recruit Western military pilots


The US and its closest intelligence partners are warning that China has intensified a campaign to recruit former Western military pilots and other service members to train its own aviators, according to a joint bulletin released by the nations on Wednesday.

Beijing has for years struggled with its air operations — including both pilot proficiency and its technical capabilities to counter western aviation tactics — even as it has built up its air and naval forces in preparation for a possible military takeover of the island of Taiwan.

Western-trained pilots can teach Chinese military personnel everything from air combat tactics to how to land on an aircraft carrier, according to a US official. They can also give China a precious window into how it can counter western combat tactics.

The warning was issued by the so-called Five Eyes nations, which share higher-level intelligence among them: the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

“To overcome their shortcomings, China’s People’s Liberation Army has been aggressively recruiting Western military talent to train their aviators,” said Michael Casey, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, part of the US intelligence community. “Recent actions by Western governments have impacted these operations, but PLA recruitment efforts continue to evolve in response.”

Asked about the bulletin on Wednesday, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said the Pentagon “always expect that our pilots will uphold the standards that they are trained under, and that they keep their training specific to the United States.”

“I think there are national security risks there,” she said.

The bulletin, released by the Office of the Director for