Online gaming perfectionists debating the precise modeling of their preferred weaponry have inadvertently exposed military secrets on the internet yet again, this time posting sensitive information about the US-built F-16 and F-15 fighter jets on two separate occasions in just one week.
The game in question is ‘War Thunder’, players of which had previously spilled some potentially classified beans on the British Challenger-2 battle tank, France’s Leclerc tank, and Chinese DTC10-125 anti-armor shells, among others. The latest disclosures concerned the F-16 Fighting Falcon, built by US defense contractor General Dynamics, and the McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle.
Like the other leaks, this one came on a discussion forum for War Thunder, where players of the realistic online game often nitpick over the accuracy of their pretend military hardware, PC Gamer reported. In an F-16 discussion that had been dragging on since mid-2022, one of the players wrote on January 16 about an “interesting thing I found during my research.”
While the comment in itself wasn’t overly sensitive, the player, known as spacenavy90, attached a document to prove his assertions about the AIM-120 radar-guided missiles and the jet’s cockpit control panel. The document had restricted distribution authorization, according to the forum moderator.
Just two days after that, another forum member, RanchSauce39, reportedly posted a collection of Operational Flight Program software manuals for the F-15E, including details on its flight controls, targeting and weapons systems.
As in similar cases involving other weapon systems, the sensitive information was removed after being flagged by the moderator and the game developer. Distributing restricted military data in unauthorized places, such as an online game forum, can result in civil or criminal sanctions.
War Thunder, which was developed by Gaijin Entertainment, a Budapest-based company with distinct Russian origins, allows players to battle each other using historical and modern military hardware. Many of the players attracted to the game are obsessed with accuracy and press the game’s designers to get every detail exactly right – in some cases supporting their arguments with restricted materials, such as the classified Challenger-2 manual that was shared in July 2021.
“We always delete posts containing classified or restricted information from our forum as soon as possible,” Gaijin said in a statement to PC Gamer. “We forbid our users to share documents like this on our platforms. We remind our users again and again that it’s both illegal and pointless, so they should never do that. We never use documents like this in our work.”
Meanwhile, the gamer promised to be “more careful about what technical information I post,” spacenavy90 told PC Gamer. “Hopefully, we can put this issue behind us.”