'We'll tighten law to stop UK pilots training Chinese air crews to defeat Western fighter jets', minister tells LBC

18 October 2022, 08:34 | Updated: 18 October 2022, 08:36

The law will be tightened to stop UK pilot veterans from unwittingly training Chinese airmen
The law will be tightened to stop UK pilot veterans from unwittingly training Chinese airmen. Picture: Getty/LBC

By Will Taylor

Tighter laws will stop British former pilots from training up Chinese air crews, LBC has been told.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Armed forces minister James Heappey said he had been aware for some years that UK veterans were helping the People's Liberation Army.

The BBC reported that up to 30 former pilots from across the military had been training air crews in China and the Ministry of Defence [MoD] had issued an alert warning against them taking part.

There were fears the Chinese could be better taught how to shoot down Western aircraft.

Mr Heappey told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: "I've been aware of it for a number of years. Our counter-intelligence team from Defence Intelligence had been working on it to speak to those involved and be clear with them that what they're doing is not something that we support and we would prefer they weren't.

Read more: Eleven Russian soldiers shot dead in attack on training base near Ukraine border

"What they were doing was not illegal unless of course they explicitly compromised secrets that are under the Official Secrets Act and there is no evidence that they have, but nonetheless we are going to strengthen the law through the National Security Bill to make sure that when people are told that they shouldn't be doing what they're doing it becomes an offence if they then continue to do it."

Armed Forces Minister on RAF pilots being recruited by China

Some of the payments reported to have been offered to pilots have been worth as much ad £237,911.

They are being used to help the Chinese understand how Western planes and pilots work, which could help in any future conflicts, such as against Taiwan, which Beijing views as a breakaway province.

"I think that a lot of them have probably entered into these arrangements in good faith, some of them unwittingly is what we've heard back.

"That they weren't clear, the company involved does not say "The PLA Air Force training academy", it's named something slightly more euphemistic.

Read more: UK to send anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine after wave of Russian rocket attacks

"So I think when we told them of what we believe the consequences of their actions to be most have been concerned to reassure that they are not betraying secrets.

"But look, Nick, we don't want our pilots and crucially those who are familiar with some of our most sensitive capabilities to be working for a foreign power that we consider to be a competitor.

"And in some cases, a competitor that is acting in a malign way to challenge the UK's interests. We would prefer they didn't do that and we're going to strengthen the law to make sure they can't."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Wayne Couzens who raped and murdered Sarah Everard

Police forces to overhaul how they deal with officers caught flashing after damning Wayne Couzens report

The current discussions on MP safety need to be expanded to candidates too

'We must take action now': The current discussions on MP safety need to be expanded to candidates too

Pakistan Politics

Khan supporters protest as lawmakers take oath in Pakistan parliament

Ultra-processed foods have been linked to a wide range of negative health outcomes including early death

Ultra-processed food linked to 32 different health problems including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and early death

Rust incident

Production manager testifies about Alec Baldwin shooting in 2021 Rust rehearsal

Playwright Jeremy O’Harris has defended the 'black only' nights

‘Black people have been told they don’t belong at the theatre’: Playwright defends ‘black-only’ nights at West End show

Christian Horner has been cleared of inappropriate behaviour

Geri Halliwell 'relieved and elated' after F1 boss husband Christian Horner is cleared after Red Bull investigation

Dame Esther said she was "disappointed" at no clear call for a vote on assisted dying

‘The law is a mess’: Dame Esther Rantzen issues fresh call for free vote on assisted dying

Canada Gaza Strip Aid

Canada says it is working to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip as soon as possible

Mark Feehily announced he's temporarily stepping away from the band amid health struggles.

Westlife star Mark Feehily reveals he’s standing down from the band just days before US tour leaving fans devastated

The Duke of Sussex took legal action against the Home Office over a decision in 2020 to change the level of his personal security

Prince Harry faces £1m bill after losing High Court challenge over taxpayer funded police protection

Rishi Sunak has warned 'mob rule' is threatening to 'replace democratic rule'.

End descent into ‘mob rule’ and shut down intimidating protests, Rishi Sunak tells police amid threats to MPs


President Joe Biden declared ‘fit for duty’ after annual medical test

Thomas Kingston died aged 45.

Lady Gabriella Windsor's husband Thomas Kingston 'died at his parents' £3m country mansion'


Supreme Court to rule if Trump can be prosecuted in election interference case

Richard Lewis has died aged 76.

Curb Your Enthusiasm star Richard Lewis dies aged 76 after suffering heart attack