China stole F-35 blueprints from Lockheed, Snowden data appears to show


Chinese spies have stolen key designs for the F-35 stealth fighter, according to documents disclosed by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Monday.

The report, citing disclosures published by German magazine Der Spiegel, said Chinese cyberspies stole huge volumes of sensitive military information, including “many terabytes of data” about the fighter, such as details of the radar systems it uses to identify and track targets.

The allegation was contained in a top secret U.S. National Security Agency presentation apparently obtained by Snowden.

The F-35 Lightning II is a next-generation fighter set to join the defense fleets of Australia, Japan and other U.S. allies.

It is understood the main data breach took place at prime contractor Lockheed Martin in 2007, predating the orders by both Australia and Japan.

Both countries have selected the F-35 as the next mainstay fighter for their air forces. Japan has 42 on order, while Australia plans to acquire 72.

While this is not the first time this jet has been alleged as a victim of Chinese cyber-espionage, the Snowden documents provide the first apparent confirmation of how much data was compromised, the Sydney Morning Herald said.

It said the leaked NSA briefings confirm that Australia knows of “serious damage” the espionage caused during the F-35’s development.

But it noted that in June 2013, U.S. Defense Department acquisitions chief Frank Kendall told a U.S. Senate hearing that he was “reasonably confident” that such classified information was now well protected.

The stolen information allegedly included detailed engine schematics, methods for cooling the exhaust, and “aft deck heating contour maps.”

Military aviation experts have speculated that the design of China’s new “fifth-generation” fighters — the Chengdu J-20 and the Shenyang J-31 — were extensively influenced by designs stolen from the United States, the report said.

Japan’s government decided in 2011 to procure the F-35. In line with its plan to boost island defense, the Abe administration has allocated ¥103.2 billion to buy six of them in the fiscal 2015 budget.

  • zer0_0zor0

    that’s how the cookie crumbles…

  • Testerty

    The newspaper says Snowden said that the US government said that China stole the F-35 secrets. ….. Yeah, right. My uncle’s best friend said he heard from his daughter who heard from extremely reliable inside White House person that this is all BS.

    • Lenomdeplume

      Says the China apologist….?

      • zer0_0zor0

        No, she’s trying to say that the secrets weren’t stolen by mocking the account of scowden’s disclosure.

    • Barry Rosenfeld

      Being an American naturally, you have difficulty in reading. Next time give time for your brain to catch up. Think first and write later.

    • mrmsjb12

      yes 0buma sold them the plans I would imagine

  • Gerry Cullen

    The article stated “documents were published” showing the proof. Snowden’s proof is not hearsay “Testerty”.
    If the NSA would spend less time snooping of its citizens maybe they would have time to do some serious detection work.

    • Eagle

      Only harmless citizens can be held under control and harrassed, when professionals come the NSA renders useless.

  • Casper Steuperaert

    And the Chinese planes probably perform better than the hunk-a-junk the F-35 is.

    • Gabriel

      If the Chinese could improve the F-35 … they had not stolen the plans.

  • Al_Martinez

    Military aviation experts have speculated that the design of China’s new “fifth-generation” fighters — the Chengdu J-20 and the Shenyang J-31—were extensively influenced by designs stolen from the United States, the report said.

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    • Gabriel

      Surely the Chinese do not copy the F-35 because it’s junk.

  • JimmyJM

    Of course China stole data. It will steal any engineering or scientific data it can. They’re not alone. Every country will try to steal another’s secrets. If China originates something useful, you can bet every other country will make a try at stealing the data. So the onus is on the keepers of that data to protect it. If they can’t, they might as well make it public. No surprises in this story.

    • Bart Fargo

      And given how the US has been cutting back on basic science research funding, it won’t be too many more decades before the US and China switch places in the game of scientific/technological espionage.

    • mrmsjb12

      just look at the ford truck that they copied

      • JimmyJM

        What is funny is the cars they’ve been building, half Toyota and half Nissan. They simply buy a car and reverse engineer it. If they took the best of both versions, they’d have a really good vehicle. My pet peeve is the Chinese using Gumby a 1950’s era American cartoon character for the Beijing Olympics mascot. I was a child in the 1950’s and watched Gumby often. Not my favorite character but still…..

    • Acharn0

      Few people seem to know that the basic tool in American fusion research, a machine called a Tokamak, was a Soviet invention which the U.S. copied from openly published Soviet magazines.

  • Bart Fargo

    If this just means China’s J-20 and J-31 will suck as bad as the F-35, I don’t think the US has much to worry about. Perhaps this even explains why the F-35 program is such a boondoggle: it is a disinformation campaign meant to serve as an example of how not to develop an aircraft. The Chinese must not have taken the bait yet, since the $1.5 trillion program is still going strong.

    • Acharn0

      What’s really worrisome is that it might convince them that the whole concept is a basically terrible idea and lead them to spend their money designing a really effective next generation fighter.

  • ostkrieg

    No wonder everybody is disliking China.
    “Rip-off Incorporated.” To think that once China was a culture and technology-producing country…

  • Eagle

    Espionage especially cyber-espionage has grown really big. No one can work now without computers, though, and in ten years when all computing including the OS will go cloud, you can’t even boot your PC without being online and electronic data storage and processing will give zero safety. In ten years no one wants to keep sensitive data in electronic storage places.

    Another thing, who designed the F35. My guessing mostly Chinese engineers even Japanese. The paperclip project has never seized to exist.

    And why is China so strong? Who built China? The U.S. in 1973 finally gave up gold backing of their currency and only could escape from the total collapse by a salvage operation rescuing their industry to China. Now there they go. Many talks. As a result, for decades they could loot the world by paying with worthless papers called U.S. dollar and they just lost their safety.

  • mrmsjb12

    that is not the same jet in that picture it has different decals on the tailfin