Chinese spies hacked secret US weapons systems including F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: reports

Eurasia News

Washington: Chinese cyber spies have reportedly obtained top-secret information on major weapons systems in the US, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Washington Post says a confidential report prepared for the Pentagon reveals the designs for more than two dozen weapons systems were compromised. They include the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which Australia is buying from the US, the Osprey aircraft, and a new US Navy combat ship, according to the Post.

The Post has also cited the advanced Patriot missile system, the Navy’s Aegis ballistic missile defence system and the Black Hawk helicopter as being among the systems hacked. It is not clear when the hacking occurred. The Post says the breaches were part of a broad Chinese campaign of espionage against US defence contractors and government agencies. If the reports are true, there are serious implications.

The Chinese military would have an advantage against those weapons in the field by being able to work out ways of disrupting, corrupting or diverting them. It would also put China’s own weapons development years ahead of schedule and potentially save China billions of dollars in weapons development costs.

China has dismissed the Pentagon report as groundless and the Pentagon has itself downplayed the claims that have been made in the Washington Post report. The Pentagon says it is wrong to suggest that US capabilities have been eroded and that the research that has been quoted was completed two years ago.

A public version of the Defence Science Board report, disclosed in January, warned the US was ill-prepared in the case of a full-scale cyber war. Earlier this month the Pentagon reported to Congress on its concerns China was using espionage to improve its own military. President Barack Obama will raise the issue with his Chinese counterpart next month in California.

Analyst says hackers have the advantage. The report comes a day after the ABC revealed that hackers using a Chinese server had stolen the blueprints for the new ASIO headquarters in Canberra.

Adam Segal, a senior fellow for China Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, says the report is worrying for the US.  But he says Western nations have few options at their disposal when it comes to putting a stop to hacking. “I think there is some of the responsibility we have to put on the targets, that people have not taken cyber security serious enough,” he told AM.

“In cyber one of the defining characteristics seems to be that the advantage goes to the attacker. The attacker only has to be right once. “The defender has to worry about millions of lines of codes, probably tens of networks and hundreds of devices. “And so the persistent attacker is always going to get in.”