Ex-Bundeswehr pilots train Chinese soldiers for horrendous salaries

Ex-Bundeswehr soldiers are supposed to train Chinese military pilots in China and collect high salaries for it – this is the result of extensive research by “Mirror‘ and ‘ZDF’. As trainers for Chinese military pilots, former Bundeswehr pilots are to receive exorbitant salaries that are otherwise only used to managers of large companies or professional athletes.

The German authorities suspect that these pilots are passing on military expertise. This also includes secret deployment strategies and possible attack scenarios. One of the key figures is said to be the former soldier Alexander H., who, according to “Spiegel”, is now training Chinese pilots at an air force base in Qiqihar after moving to China. And this at a time when relations between China and the West are growing strained.

After retiring as a Bundeswehr pilot, H. moved to China

According to information from the “Spiegel”, former Bundeswehr officer Alexander H. apparently plays an important role in a sensitive affair involving Germany and international security forces. H., who once flew jets for the Bundeswehr, is said to have trained military pilots in China. His new center of life is said to have been the remote city of Qiqihar in the northeast Chinese province of Heilongjiang, where an air force base of the People’s Liberation Army is located.

Alexander H’s move to China in 2013 surprised his acquaintances, who assumed he had emigrated to the United States with his American partner. However, his connection to China appears to have been formed through a chance encounter with a Chinese recruiter at an air show in Berlin.

After retiring as a Bundeswehr pilot at the age of 41, Alexander H. looked for ways to maintain his standard of living. This eventually led him to China, where, according to Der Spiegel, he worked with Lode-Tech, a company founded by Su Bin, the son of a PLA officer.

Salaries at the level of professional athletes

In Qiqihar, H. is said to have taken up a job with a handful of other former German fighter pilots, which usually involves salaries at the level of professional athletes or managers. They are to train Chinese fighter pilots and help improve the capabilities of the Chinese Air Force. This would have both military and political implications as China strengthens its military presence and international profile.

Particularly explosive: the founder of the company, Su Bin, had already been noticed by the American authorities for espionage. Su Bin previously lived in Canada and operated an aviation company there. I ran a company in China that was active in the aerospace industry. At the same time, according to “Spiegel”, he spied for the Chinese state. Arrested in 2014, he confessed to collecting classified information for China for nearly six years. According to the US Department of Justice, he was part of a conspiratorial network focused on stealing confidential information from US companies. He is said to have used his aerospace knowledge to understand, identify and acquire the data.

The ex-Bundeswehr soldiers are a great opportunity for China: During their service in China, Alexander H. and his colleagues revolutionized the Chinese Air Force’s training system by focusing on modern training techniques and tactics, according to Der Spiegel. They would have improved training protocols and trained flight instructors to use modern technology, which may have resulted in significant improvements in the capabilities of the Chinese Air Force.

China apparently wants to siphon off Western knowledge

The activities of the former Bundeswehr pilot correspond to what security experts call China’s “gray beard strategy”. Accordingly, China is trying to woo former decision-makers with privileged and often up-to-date knowledge in order to skim off know-how that can be used militarily.

In fact, the Ministry of Defense confirmed to “Spiegel” that China is trying to recruit former NATO pilots as trainers, including former Bundeswehr pilots, through external agencies.

Another reason for the activities in China could also be the lack of pension schemes for pilots in the German armed forces. Because fighter pilots in the Bundeswehr usually retire at the age of 41. Anyone who starts working at the age of 20 will receive around 50 percent of their last salary as a pension at the age of 41. For some, too little to be able to live well. Most ex-pilots therefore take part-time jobs – the horrendous salaries in China are therefore not unattractive for ex-Bundeswehr pilots. The story of Alexander H. is a good example of this.

“Huge Security Risk”

The parliamentary control body of the Bundestag also recently dealt with the “employment of members of the public service after the end of the active employment relationship” in several meetings. It should also have been about the ex-Bundeswehr pilots in China. In this context, the green chairman of the committee, Konstantin von Notz, speaks to the “Spiegel” of a “monstrous, outrageous and problematic process” that represents “an enormous security risk” if he is confirmed.

It is clear that this type of cooperation between former NATO pilots and China could pose a serious security risk that affects both the Bundeswehr and global security.

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