A confidential US military report has again accused China of stealing the designs for some of the nation’s most sensitive and sophisticated weapons systems through cyber attacks, raising major worries on weakened US military advantage in a future conflict.
Among the “more than two dozen major weapons systems whose designs were breached were programs critical to US missile defenses and combat aircraft and ships,” The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing “a previously undisclosed section of a confidential report” specifically prepared for American military leaders by the Defense Science Board (DSB).
The DSB is a senior advisory group made up of government and civilian military experts, according to the daily.
Some of the compromised weapons system designs, the report insists, “form the backbone of the Pentagon’s regional missile defense” for the Persian Gulf, Asia and Europe, including those of 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.”
Other key weapons cited in the report are “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,” designed for sea patrols near the shore.
The list further includes what the daily describes as “the most expensive weapons system ever built” in the US – the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which will cost an estimated USD1.4 trillion.
This is while US experts have warned that the alleged Chinese cyber intrusions have provided the East Asian nation access to “advanced technology that could accelerate the development of its weapons systems” while undermining the American military advantage in a future war, according to the report.
The DSB report further pointed to a list of broad US military technologies that have been breached, “such as drone video systems, nanotechnology, tactical data links and electronic warfare systems,” all areas where both the Pentagon and Chinese military “are investing heavily,” it notes.
The DSB, however, did not accuse the Chinese of stealing American weapon designs in its report, though senior military and industry officials “with knowledge of the breaches” insisted that “the vast majority” were part of a growing Chinese cyber espionage campaign against US military contractors and government agencies, the daily adds.
The development comes amid persisting exchange of allegations between US and China of cyber intrusions against each other’s computer networks and nearly a week before the presidents of the two countries hold a joint summit in California.
The confidential list of compromised weapons system designs and technologies, the daily adds, 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 US defenses.”
According to the Post article, the public version of the DSB report further noted that the alleged cyber espionage and cyber sabotage campaign waged against the United States by the Chinese could impose “severe consequences for US forces engaged in combat,” including “severed communication links critical to the operation of US forces.”
“Data corruption could misdirect US operations. Weapons could fail to operate as intended. Planes, satellites or drones could crash,” the report added.