US targets China-linked flight school

The US has added a flight academy allegedly used by China to recruit Western pilots to its sanctions list

US targets China-linked flight school
13 Jun, 2023 00:48 HomeWorld News

US targets China-linked flight school

Washington has imposed sanctions on a South African academy accused of helping Beijing recruit Western pilots

The US has blacklisted a South African flight school, which was accused of facilitating the training of Chinese Air Force pilots by retired Western military aviators. 

The Test Flying Academy of South Africa (TFASA) was added to the list of sanctioned entities curated by the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).

The Bureau designated more than 40 new entities on Monday, most of them from China, as “acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

Multiple research facilities based in China were added to the list as well. According to BIS, the sanctioned entities had used Western software to develop hypersonic weapons and air-to-air missiles. 

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

The move came after several Western governments were startled by media reports that Beijing has been secretly recruiting foreign pilots to train its own aviators. Australia launched an investigation into the matter last year, while Britain’s Royal Air Force promised to change regulations in order to prevent ex-pilots from training their colleagues from other countries without the government’s approval.

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

Beijing has said in the past that it was unaware of training programs that involved foreign ex-pilots. The Chinese Commerce Ministry released a statement on Monday, blasting US sanctions as lacking “factual basis and due process.” China will take “necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises and individuals,” the spokesperson said.