Chinese Hackers Steal US Weapons Designs: Report

May 28, 2013 Updated: December 15, 2013

Chinese cyberspies have accessed designs for over two dozen major U.S. weapons systems, according to the Washington Post. 

The newspaper cited a nonpublic section of a January report prepared for the Pentagon that lists the compromised designs for defense weapons, like the advanced Patriot missile system or PAC-3, and also those of combat craft, such as the Black Hawk helicopter and the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship. Other hacked items on the list include drone video systems, and electronic warfare technology.

A Pentagon spokesman who could only speak off the record told the Post via email: “The Department of Defense has growing concerns about the global threat to economic and national security from persistent cyber-intrusions aimed at the theft of intellectual property, trade secrets, and commercial data, which threatens the competitive edge of U.S. businesses like those in the Defense Industrial Base.”

As well as allowing Chinese development of advanced technology much more cheaply and rapidly, the breaches could also enhance the communist state’s weapons systems, and remove the U.S. military’s operational edge during any future conflicts.

Winslow T. Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information (CDI) said the cyber-attacks render U.S. missile defenses vulnerable to Chinese interference.

“If they got into the combat systems, it enables them to understand it, to be able to jam it or otherwise disable it,” he told the Post. “If they’ve got into the basic algorithms for the missile and how they behave, somebody better get out a clean piece of paper and start to design all over again.”

Australian media reported a similar breach Monday, saying that Chinese hackers had obtained blueprints for the new headquarters of the country’s intelligence service, and also technology from several Australian companies, including one that provides encrypted radios to the military.

President Barack Obama is due to meet new regime leader Xi Jinping in California next week. Cybersecurity is on the agenda.