Each type of journalism has its own iterations. Real estate journalists will write ‘house prices are rising again’ a hundred times over in their careers, political journalists will have to trumpet ‘government announces policy shift’ most weeks, and sports journalists will do their best at ‘Lewis Hamilton wins the grand prix’. In the gaming press, we repeat: “War Thunder players leak military documents.”
Since 2019, multiplayer military sim players have shared restricted and secret military documents Numbers galore. Sometimes it’s just to showcase something they’ve discovered about a vehicle they love to drive in the game, and other times, it’s to win an argument. This week could be a new record, with two separate leaks from the Armaments Manuals.
The first leak was in a discussion of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Players were discussing what weapons could be installed on the plane, when the user was Spacenavy90 Share a document (Opens in a new tab)saying, “An interesting thing I found during my research. During early AMRAAM testing, you can see how the F-16A will equip the AIM-120 and use TWS on the non-MFD “SCP” shop control panel.” As if it were an innocuous claim, except if there was a jargon-filled claim about the fighter jet’s specs, it turns out there was more to it than you might expect.
Reply to Spacenavy90’s post (Opens in a new tab) He noted that the document was meant to be distributed within the US Department of Defense and authorized by US government agencies because it contained “controlled technical data”. As much as $1 million per violation (Opens in a new tab) He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Moderators quickly deleted the document.
One more for luck
You’d have thought this would be a breach of federal law for one week, but two days later, in a thread about the McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet, user RanchSauce39 shared a bunch of technical guides about an early version of the aircraft. to me Aerotime (Opens in a new tab)These documents date back to 1998-2000, but while more modern versions of the aircraft are now available, the F-15E Suite 3 may still be in use today.
The documents appear to have been declassified, but as with the F-16 leak, their release is likely to be restricted.
After deleting RanchSauce39’s post, Posted by War Thunder Community Manager (Opens in a new tab)(I fancy, a slightly strained tone), “Guys, I’m going to say this very clearly to everyone. If you can’t conclusively prove that something is available legally, fully declassified and without any strings attached, don’t publish it at all.”
On the surface, this might sound like a funny story about ardent wargames fans sharing things they’ve found without thinking. And you hope they wouldn’t be able to get their hands on a highly sensitive document without a level of clearance that would bring with it some level of liability. But this is not always the case.
Back in 2019, a player claiming to be a Challenger 2 tank commander tried to convince developer Gaijin Entertainment that he hadn’t designed the vehicle properly. To get their point across, they’ve shared an excerpt from the Tank User’s Guide. They cracked pieces of the information, but Gaijin officials were contacted by the British Ministry of Defense to tell them the document was still classified and that sharing it breached the Official Secrets Act, an offense that could carry a penalty of up to two years in prison. It should also be noted that earlier this month the UK government sent 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, so these are not military relics, but weapons systems in active use.
Basically, if you want to make a point on a game forum, don’t share a secret military document – just create a meme like everyone else.