Snowden documents reveal China stole 50TB of fighter jet secrets

19 Jan 2015

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning jet. Image via Wikimedia Commons

China, with the help of cyberespionage, stole 50TB of top secret information about the US military’s F-35 fighter jet, revelations in recently leaked NSA documents suggest.

According to the BBC, the US National Security Agency (NSA)’s attempts at monitoring China’s cyberespionage have shown that reams of data relating to the fighter jet had been obtained by the Chinese and more than likely have gone into the development of the next-generation Chinese fighters.

Highlighting the revealed documents obtained by the German newspaper Der Spiegel with the help of former CIA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, the plane’s radar systems were believed to have been of particular interest to the cyber-spies, as well as the plane’s engine and exhaust schematics.

The leaked documents are also the first time initial rumours that the Chinese had obtained schematics for the plane were publically confirmed for a project that has cost the US government as much as US$300bn since it was first given the go-ahead back in 2001.

The Chinese Shenyang J-31 jet in development by the Chinese military bears an obvious resemblance to the F-35 Lightning. Image via Wikimedia Commons

The actual leak was believed to have occurred in 2007, with Lockheed Martin’s cybersecurity being held responsible for the breach despite the fact the US Defense Department’s acquisitions chief Frank Kendall going before a Senate hearing in 2013 saying he was ‘reasonably confident’ the F-35’s secrets were secure.

The documents also detailed how the US government was (and most likely still is) accessing the data of high-ranking Chinese military officials to obtain information on their government’s cyberspying operations.

One of the aircraft believed to have been influenced by the details obtained by Chinese cyber-spies is the Shenyang J-31, which bears an obvious resemblance to the F-35 and is viewed as one of China’s own next-generation fighters.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic