China denied stealing any U.S. jet fighter designs that were published in documents by former US National Security Agency intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. The top secret documents reportedly revealed that cyber spies stole key information about Australia’s new Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35 Lighting II. Snowden revealed the information to German magazine Der Spiegel.
The report also suggests that the Australian government has been informed that of the cyber-espionage after the Chinese allegedly stole “huge volumes” of sensitive military information relating to the plane.
The stolen information includes details of the fighter’s radar systems, engine schematics, methods for cooling exhaust gas and “aft deck heating contour maps.” The Snowden documents appear to be the first public confirmation of the long-held suspicion that the F-35 has been the target of Chinese cyber-espionage. This comes after China has made its first attempt at a stealth fighter, known as the Chengdu J-20.
It’s also been reported by experts that the Chengdu J-20 and China’s most advanced fighter jet, the Shenyang J-31 Falcon Hawk, have been heavily influenced by U.S. fighter designs. The Falcon Hawk has roughly the same appearance as the F-35. Experts suggest that the data breach occurred at Lockheed Martin’s headquarters in 2007.
In June 2013, Defense Department acquisitions chief Frank Kendall told a US Senate hearing that he was “reasonably confident” classified information related to the development of the F-35 was protected.
That was after Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced in April that Australia would buy 58 F-35 jets for $12 billion, bringing Australia’s total JSF fleet to 72.
The Snowden documents show that Chinese cyber-spies stole the equivalent of five Libraries of Congress, amounting to 50 terabytes of data. Among the sensitive military technologies included in the breach was information about the B-2 stealth bomber, the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, nuclear submarine and military personnel records. The documents also show that the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on China’s espionage agencies.