A group of Chinese men taking photos at an Australian aerospace and defence air show have aroused suspicions after authorities banned China‘s military from attending amid escalating strategic tensions in the region.

An Australian national security expert, who suspects three men he saw photographing the first restricted day of the Avalon airshow may have been ‘spying’, is preparing a report for the Department of Defence.   

Lincoln Parker is an adviser on ‘deep tech’ defence innovation who works closely with Australia’s Five Eyes allies in military technology.

Mr Parker said the trio were taking numerous photographs of aircraft and attendees at the show, from which Australia had banned China and Russia’s military attending.

Officially called the Australian International Airshow & Aerospace and Defence Exposition 2023, it exhibits a wide range of new defence technologies, including a new Australian-made lethal drone which can carry out unmanned air-to-ground strikes against hostile targets. 

The three young Chinese men attended the air show on the first day of restricted entry and took many photographs with long lenses of the crowd and the aircraft

The three men pulled out large camera and photographed the show and the crowd attending, which included 22 chiefs of service from other countries and Australia

The Australian Defense Department has stated that neither China nor Russia were invited to participate in Avalon 2023 due to escalating strategic tensions in the Indo-Pacific and the Ukraine War. 

RAAF chief Air Marshal Rob Chipman, told attendees – which included international defence and government delegations including armed services chiefs and military officials – that the nation’s competitive advantage would be crucial in future conflict prevention.

It is the second year the Defence Department has shut out China and Russia with RAN chief Vice Admiral Mike Noonan revoking invitations to China and Russia in 2022 to attend a naval conference in Sydney because of deteriorating ties.

Mr Parker, who himself photographed the trio of men, said the men showed intense interest in recording the show and the attendees.    

After revealing the possible security breach to Chris Smith’s TNT Radio program, Mr Parker said the men were armed with sophisticated camera equipment.

‘I may go to ASIO, I’ll be making a report to the Department of Defence,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.  

Showcasing the latest in aviation, aerospace, defence and space technologies, the Avalon show hosted air chiefs and military officials from different countries, but specifically did not invite Chinese or Russian military

ABC News reported that ‘this year, there will be 56 international delegations represented, including 22 chiefs of service,’ but that the Department of Defence ‘did not invite representatives of the Chinese and Russian militaries to Avalon 2023’.

On the first three days of Avalon, only officials or people wearing a Trade Registration Badge were allowed entry, the restrictions making Mr Parker even more curious about the three men.

‘All three had big long lenses and there were these F33 Raptors and F35 (stealth bomber) planes and one guy was moving his camera around and taking pictures into the crowd,’ he said.

‘I thought, this is weird. China (and Russia) weren’t invited and they are known for stealing out technology.’

Mr Parker has worked in Washington, DC, and consults around the world on defence security and government technology development. 

He chairs the Defence and National Security Policy Branch of the Liberal Party of Australia. 

The sold-out show opened to the public after four days of trade and official entry.

The new Australian-developed armed drone capable of transporting a potentially lethal payload weighing well over 100 kilograms and designed to be transported in shipping containers was unveiled at the show.

Called STRIX, the system which has vertical which has vertical take-off, can operate in high-risk areas without a runway.

Security expert Lincoln Parker took photographs of the men at the defence air show that aroused his suspicion with their intense interest in not only aircraft but also the crowd at Avalon

Professor John Blaxland, who is Australian National University’s Professor of International Security & Intelligence Studies, told Daily Mail Australia he would not be surprised that China was spying on Australia’s major defence aviation show.

‘It is the prime venue for overt espionage by defence attaches from around the world,’ he said, adding that chiefs of armed services from countries Australia was friendly with were at the show in force.

‘They didn’t  want China or Russia to get up close and personal with what is still fairly sensitive kit. They were excluded.

‘They are not welcome. Relations have soured, particularly with Russia, but we still haven’t recovered from the trade sanctions  (by China) and Australians aren’t exactly allowed freedom of movement in China.

‘They want to have their cake and eat it too.’