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June 08, 2023

Did German Pilots Just Pass NATO’s Tactics to China?

By Franz-Stefan Gady

There is a long history of German military pilots helping the Chinese air force. In the 1930s, Nazi Germany dispatched military advisors to help build and train the air force of the Republic of China, which was simultaneously fighting communist insurgents under Mao Zedong and the invading Imperial Japanese Army. Chinese-German relations soured a few years later, when Berlin allied with Tokyo in the Tripartite Pact. By then, however, Chinese pilots had not only been trained by the formidable German air force—the Luftwaffe—but were also flying German-made bombers and fighter aircraft to attack the communists and Japanese.

Europe should bury its naivete regarding Chinese military power, even if no Chinese missiles will likely rain down on Paris, London, or Berlin.

German fighter pilots are helping train China’s air force once again. According to a report published last week in Der Spiegel, several former Luftwaffe pilots have been training Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) pilots over the past decade. The report quotes unnamed German security officials warning it is “very possible that the pilots have passed on military expertise and confidential operational tactics, and even practiced attack scenarios, such as an offensive against Taiwan.” For example, Luftwaffe pilots, even retired ones who haven’t flown recently, could teach Chinese pilots about planning and executing effective suppression and destruction of enemy air defense (critical operations known by their military acronyms, SEAD and DEAD), which was a Luftwaffe forte during and immediately after the Cold War. It is also a critical skillset for the Chinese air force to acquire in order to gain air superiority in any fight over Taiwan. Indeed, the Luftwaffe’s only combat mission since World War II was in 1999, when four German Tornado fighter aircraft—outfitted with electronic warfare capabilities and anti-radiation missiles capable of following incoming radar signals to their source—took part in a NATO SEAD campaign against Serbian air defenses.

Read the full article from Foreign Policy.

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