Chinese Hackers Obtained Designs of Advanced Weapons Systems Critical to U.S. Missile Defense

Thursday, May 30, 2013
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (photo: U.S. Air Force, AP)

If China ever decides to launch a missile at the United States, and the American ballistic missile defense fails to shoot it down, the reason might not come as a surprise.


This week, a special report produced for the Department of Defense revealed that Chinese hackers successfully accessed classified information about more than two dozen U.S. weapons programs, including those that play key roles in the military’s anti-missile systems.


The Defense Science Board (DSB), a senior advisory group made up of government and civilian experts, informed Pentagon officials that cyber-attacks—unofficially blamed on China—had breached the U.S. computer networks holding classified data on programs like the PAC-3 Patriot missile, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system.


In addition to these weapons, the Chinese military may have gained detailed information about vital combat aircraft and ships. These include the trillion-dollar F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F/A-18 fighter, the V-22 Osprey transport aircraft, the Black Hawk helicopter and the Littoral Combat Ship.


Also taken was data on various military technologies, such as laser weapons and advanced avionics.


“This is billions of dollars of combat advantage for China,” a senior military official told the The Washington Post. “They’ve just saved themselves 25 years of research and development.”


The report did not say if it was the computer systems of the U.S. government or defense contractors that were breached. However, Pentagon officials have privately expressed frustration over the high degree of cyber-theft from contractors that has taken place.


A public version of the DSB’s report was released in January, but the Post obtained the list of compromised U.S. weapon designs that was included in the classified draft.


Experts report that the acquisition of this data by the Chinese could advance their own weapons systems, thereby giving them an edge over the U.S. in any future conflict. The DSB report states that the breach may result in “severe consequences for U.S. forces engaged in combat,” including the disabling of our weapons systems, data corruption resulting in misdirection of U.S. operations, severed communication links, penetration of our missile defenses, and the crashing of drones, aircraft and satellites.


“If they got into the combat systems...somebody better get out a clean piece of paper and start to design all over again,” Winslow T. Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight, told the Post.

-Danny Biederman, Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Confidential Report Lists U.S. Weapons System Designs Compromised by Chinese Cyberspies (by Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post)

Chinese Hackers Jeopardize Secrecy of U.S. Weapons Programs (by Agence France-Presse)

The U.S. Weapons Systems That Experts Say Were Hacked by the Chinese (by Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post)

Because Obama Administration Demanded Google Cooperate in Surveillance, Chinese Gained Access to Targets (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)      

Report Fingers Chinese Army in Anti-U.S. Hacking Attacks (by Danny Biederman and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Chinese Government Brags on TV about Cyber Attacks against U.S. Sites (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)



George Bush 8 years ago
Wait! You say Regan had a brain?
Mike 11 years ago
Considering the DoD is using Chinese satellites to transmit data in N. Africa and who knows where else which is a BAD idea, why does this come as any surprise?
Steve 11 years ago
If the Chinese, or anyone else, for that matter, decides to start chucking ICBMs in our direction, the system will not work because (wait for it) the system will not work. It's been a boondoggle from the day that Edward Teller imprinted it on Ronald Reagan's rapidly atrophying brain.

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