US targets China-linked flight school

Lazy eyes listen


The United States has sanctioned a South African flying school for allegedly aiding the training of Chinese Air Force pilots by retired Western military aviators.

The US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has added the Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA) to its list of sanctioned businesses.

On Monday, the Bureau classified over 40 additional entities, the majority of which were Chinese, as “acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

Several Chinese research facilities have also been added to the list. The sanctioned businesses, according to BIS, exploited Western software to create hypersonic weaponry and air-to-air missiles.

“It is critical that we prevent China from acquiring US technologies and know-how to enable their military modernization programs,” said Matthew Axelrod, Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement.

Several Western nations were taken aback by media allegations that Beijing was surreptitiously recruiting foreign pilots to train its own aviators. Australia started an investigation into the problem last year, while the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom committed to amend procedures to prevent ex-pilots from training colleagues from other countries without permission from the government.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said last week that he had warned his Chinese counterpart, General Li Shangfu, that recruiting former Bundeswehr pilots was unacceptable.

Beijing has previously stated that it was unaware of any training programs involving foreign ex-pilots. On Monday, the Chinese Commerce Ministry issued a statement criticizing US penalties for missing “factual basis and due process.” The Chinese government will take “necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises and individuals,” according to the spokeswoman.