The story of the T-2 Buckeye student that stuck his Skipper’s elbows under the canopy

The US government allowed a T-2 Buckeye trainer to be exported to South Africa to help train Chinese carrier pilots due to false information given by former USMC Harrier pilot, Indictment Says

By Dario Leone
Dec 14 2022
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A T-2 Buckeye aircraft was bought from a US aircraft dealer for the training, by providing false information that resulted in the US government issuing an export licence.

US authorities are alleging that Australian pilot Daniel Duggan – a former US Marine Corps (USMC) Harrier pilot -detained in Australia was involved in training Chinese military pilots how to land on aircraft carriers, the latest development in a campaign by the US and its allies to prevent China from recruiting Western aviators, The Wall Street Journal says.

The indictment said the naturalised Australian “provided military training to (PRC) People’s Republic of China pilots” through a “test flying academy” in South Africa between 2010 and 2012.

As already reported, Australian Federal Police arrested Duggan, 54, on Oct. 21, 2022 in the rural town of Orange in New South Wales, pending a formal extradition request.

The arrest came the same week Britain warned dozens of former military pilots to stop working in China or face prosecution on national security grounds under new laws.

Duggan’s lawyer, Dennis Miralis, said pilot will fight any extradition request, and resolutely maintains his innocence.

“He denies having breached any US law, any Australian law, any international law,” Miralis said. Miralis did not respond to requests from the Guardian for comment on Tuesday.

The indictment said Duggan was allegedly contracted directly by an unnamed co-conspirator – a Chinese national – to provide services to a Chinese state-owned company, including evaluations of Chinese military pilot trainees, testing of naval aviation related equipment, and instruction on tactics related to landing aircraft on aircraft carriers.

As reported by Australia News, “Duggan did not seek authorisation from the US government to provide military training to China, although the US State Department had informed him by email in 2008 this was required to train members of a foreign air force, it said.

“The indictment alleges he travelled frequently between Australia, the US, China and South Africa between 2009 and 2012, when he held both US and Australian citizenships. Duggan has since renounced his US citizenship.

“Duggan’s alleged violation of an arms embargo imposed on China by the United States also included providing aviation services in China in 2010, and providing an assessment of China’s aircraft carrier training, it said.

“The indictment alleges the Chinese national brokered a deal between the South African flight school and a Chinese state-owned enterprise to provide aircraft carrier landing training to Chinese military pilots in South Africa and China.

A T-2 Buckeye aircraft was bought from a US aircraft dealer for the training, by providing false information that resulted in the US government issuing an export licence, it said.

“Duggan faces four charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States by conspiracy to unlawfully export defence services to China, conspiracy to launder money, and two counts of violating the arms export control act and international traffic in arms regulations.”

The T-2 was an all-purpose US Navy jet trainer for intermediate and advanced training. It featured a tandem-cockpit. As a multipurpose jet training, the T-2 incorporated under-wing hard points for weapons training and arresting gear for carrier qualification. The final carrier qualification flights made by T-2s occurred in 2003, and the aircraft has been replaced in the Naval Air Training Command by the T-45 Goshawk.

According to Alert 5, the T-2 exported to Africa is listed for sale previously on Aircraft.com and the South African registration is ZU-NVY. The current fate of ZU-NVY is not known. It was constructed on Jan. 1, 1967 as a T-2B and the certificate of airworthiness was issued on Oct. 11, 2006 as N36TB. It was taken off the FAA registration on May 9, 2011 when it was exported to South Africa.

After a decade in the US military Duggan moved to Australia and started a business called Top Gun Tasmania, hiring former US and British military pilots to offer tourists joyrides in fighter jets, company records show and aviation sources confirmed.

According to Reuters he also flew ex-military aircraft in Australian air shows.

Top Gun Tasmania’s website says that besides flying Harrier jump jets in the USMC Duggan was an air combat instructor.

He moved to Beijing in 2014 and soon after sold Top Gun Tasmania, filings in Australia for the company show.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Duggan has been working in Qingdao, China, since 2017 as the managing director of AVIBIZ Limited, described as “a comprehensive aviation consultancy company with a focus on the fast-growing and dynamic Chinese Aviation Industry”.

Hong Kong company records show AVIBIZ Limited was registered there by Australian passport holder Daniel Edmund Duggan in 2017 and dissolved in 2020.

Photo credit: John Davies – CYOW Airport Watch via Wikipedia


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
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