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Report: Hackers Obtain Specs for US Weapons Systems

Latest revelations show depth of ongoing cyber espionage between world powers

Jon Queally, staff writer

Previously undisclosed sections of a US government report obtained by the Washington Post show that designs for some of the Pentagon's most advanced weapons systems were "compromised by Chinese hackers" in an act of cyber-espionage that one industry expert called "breathtaking."

According to the Post:

Among more than two dozen major weapons systems whose designs were breached were programs critical to U.S. missile defenses and combat aircraft and ships, according to a previously undisclosed section of a confidential report prepared for Pentagon leaders by the Defense Science Board.

Experts warn that the electronic intrusions gave China access to advanced technology that could accelerate the development of its weapons systems and weaken the U.S. military advantage in a future conflict.


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The Defense Science Board, a senior advisory group made up of government and civilian experts, did not accuse the Chinese of stealing the designs. But senior military and industry officials with knowledge of the breaches said the vast majority were part of a widening Chinese campaign of espionage against U.S. defense contractors and government agencies.

Among the weapon system compromised were the advanced Patriot missile system, known as PAC-3; an anti-ballistic missile sytem, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD; the Navy’s Aegis ballistic-missile defense system; the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter; the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship; and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, one of the most expensive weapons systems ever created by the US military, with a staggering development price of $1.4 trillion..

“That’s staggering,” said Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank that focuses on Asia security issues, when told about the list of weapons by the Post. “These are all very critical weapons systems, critical to our national security. When I hear this in totality, it’s breathtaking.”

The hype by the Pentagon and industry analysts aside, however, the revelations about the possible hack shows the growing trend of dueling cyber-attacks between the world's governments. Though US officials have publicly accused the Chinese for commanding or supporting networks of hackers, the US has also been a leader in executing offensive modes of cyber warfare against its rivals and enemies.


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