Chinese hackers have obtained designs for more than two dozen U.S. weapon systems — including the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, the F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter, the Littoral Combat Ship and electromagnetic railguns — according to a Monday report from The Washington Post.
The detailed list was part of a classified version of a January report from the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board on U.S. cyber posture. The Post obtained the full version of the report that included a detailed list of the compromised designs.
The itemized list gives more weight to the Pentagon’s “Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2013,” which stated China uses the technical information it obtains to modernize the growing defense sector designed to modernize the People’s Liberation Army weapons programs.
“China utilized its intelligence services and employed other illicit approaches that involve violations of U.S. laws and export controls to obtain key
national security technologies, controlled equipment, and other materials not readily obtainable through commercial means or academia,” read the report to Congress.
While China has a growing military-industrial base, they still fall far behind the U.S. in technology development. A shortcut to intensive research and development is obtaining technical designs and reverse engineer the technology for domestic production. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union copied several U.S. and NATO member country designs and developed domestically developed versions of stolen weapon designs.
The designs listed in the Post story include several key BMD capabilities: the U.S. Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD),Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) in addition to the Aegis BMD programs. The systems make up the bulk of the U.S. BMD capability and are keystones to future plans for the U.S. to protect against ballistic missile threats.
A 2007 theft of terabytes of data on the F-35 program is often blamed on the speed China was able to develop its stealth Chengdu J-20 aircraft.
The Chinese government has long denied it employs hackers to steal U.S. secrets.
In February, U.S. cyber security firm Mandiant accused China of using a government-backed cyber espionage cell designed to steal U.S. technology secrets.