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NATO mapping software now available to Chinese military, report finds

NATO mapping software now available to Chinese military, report finds
China has obtained cutting-edge mapping software used by NATO and US militaries to collect intelligence on the battlefield, putting its armed forces on equal footing with the most advanced Western armies, a report says.

A Belgium-based defense contractor Luciad has sold the software to China, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) citing Chinese government sources. The software, which includes a Luciad Lightspeed application, is used to map the terrain and ensure situational awareness of military commanders.

The software, which is in used by NATO and US militaries, visualizes changes in enemy positions and identifies targets in real time. It’s 75 times faster than its closest competitor and is remarkably accurate. The same software is reportedly employed by US Special Operations Forces, whose raid on Osama bin Laden in Pakistan made headlines in 2011.

Notably, a foreign company supplying software to the Chinese government must fully reveal its codes for a security check. But it’s unclear if Luciad complied with the requirement. Much to the concern of the US military, China has made an array of remarkable breakthroughs in military hi-tech over the past years. Beijing heavily invested in advanced military technologies, nearly outpacing the Americans.

US experts predict China “wants to be a first mover” in artificial intelligence, efficiently incorporating the Internet of Things, big data, robotics and machine learning. China’s progress in electronic warfare, cyber, counter-space systems and hypersonic weapons also didn’t go unnoticed in the West. 

The Chinese military is also catching up in an area where Western powers have had unrivaled dominance – airpower. A 2018 edition of Military Balance, a reputed British publication, described China's progress in aerospace defense as “remarkable.”

“These advances are all part of the Chinese air force’s goal to become capable of challenging any opponent in the air domain. For the past three decades, air dominance has been a key advantage for the US and its allies. This can no longer be assumed,” it stated.

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