Pentagon identifies weapons system designs looted by Chinese hackers

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Defense Industrial Base // Government (U.S.) // United States

Sensitive plans for major advanced weapons systems have been compromised by Chinese cyberspies, according to a confidential Pentagon analysis and to officials from government and industry. 

A hush-hush section of a report prepared for U.S. military leaders by the Defense Science Board, a group comprising government and civilian experts, did not blame China for the breaches identified, 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."

Some of the designs infiltrated "form the backbone of the Pentagon’s regional missile defense for Asia, Europe and the Persian Gulf."

The laundry list of strategies exposed includes:

The advanced Patriot missile system, known as PAC-3; an Army system for shooting down ballistic missiles, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD; and the Navy’s Aegis ballistic-missile defense system.

Vital combat aircraft and ships, including the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship, which is designed to patrol waters close to shore.

The most expensive weapons system ever built — the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is on track to cost about $1.4 trillion. 

"The confidential list of compromised weapons system designs and technologies represents the clearest look at what the Chinese are suspected of targeting. When the list was read to independent defense experts, they said they were shocked by the extent of the cyber-espionage and the potential for compromising U.S. defenses.

. . . The experts said the cybertheft creates three major problems. First, access to advanced U.S. designs gives China an immediate operational edge that could be exploited in a conflict. Second, it accelerates China’s acquisition of advanced military technology and saves billions in development costs. And third, the U.S. designs can be used to benefit China’s own defense industry. There are long-standing suspicions that China’s theft of designs for the F-35 fighter allowed Beijing to develop its version much faster."