Category Archives: China

After latest F-35 hack, Lockheed Martin, BAe Systems, Elbit under multiple cyber attacks….right now.

I have just published a timeline covering the main Cyber Attacks targeting Military Industry and Aviation, but it looks like the latest events will force me to post an update, soon.

Although perpetrated with very different timelines, origins and motivations behind them, the last three days have seen a new wave of attacks against military industry that has unexpectedly become the point of intersection between cybercrime and cyberwar.

The first clamorous attack was disclosed a couple of days ago, when the Sunday Times revealed that alleged Chinese Hackers were able to penetrate into computers belonging to BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest defence company, and to steal details about the design, performance and electronic systems of the West’s latest fighter jet, the costly F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The hacking attack has raised concerns that the fighter jet’s advanced radar capabilities could have been compromised and comes few weeks after papers about the future British-French drone were stolen in Paris.

Apparently, once again, an APT-based attack, or maybe one of its precursors, since it was first uncovered nearly three years ago. In any case, according to the sources and the little information available, it lasted continuously for 18 months, exploiting vulnerabilities in BAE’s computer defences to steal vast amounts of data. A fingerprint analogous to other similar cyber operations, allegedly generated from China such as Operation Aurora or the controversial operation Shady RAT.

Details of the attack have been a secret within Britain’s intelligence community until they were disclosed by a senior BAE executive during a private dinner in London for cyber security experts late last year.

Curiously the F-35 seems to be a very attracting prey for hackers as it was already the victim of a Cyber Attack in 2009; once again the latest attack is believed to be originated from China, who is showing a restless cyber activity.

Although completely different for impact and motivations, a second attack has just been announced by the infamous hacking collective Anonymous, which, in name of the #OpFreePalestine operation, has published the contact details for senior staff at BAE (hit once again), Lockheed, Gulfstream Aerospace, a division of General Dynamics, and the United States Division Of Israeli Owned Arms Company Elbit Systems. An attempt to embarrass military industry considered involved in the events happening in Palestine.

Although the data dumps apparently contain little valuable information (according to many of the telephone numbers listed are for company headquarters, while several of the names appear to be out of date), the latest attacks represent a quantum leap in the Middle East Cyber War, after the “reign of terror” threatened by Anonymous against Israel.

The F-35 JSF is not only the most advanced stealthy fighter plane of the next future. It is also the most expensive. That’s why some partners have been compelled to downsize their initial requirements because of cuts imposed by the increasing unit price (with the new contract the total unit cost for an LRIP 5 jet is 205.3 million USD!!).

Apparently these cuts are interesting even the IT Security budgets of the manufacturers.

If you want to have an idea of how fragile our data are inside the cyberspace, have a look at the timelines of the main Cyber Attacks in 2011 and 2012 (regularly updated) at And follow the author of this article @paulsparrows on Twitter for the latest updates.


International Women's day special: China's Air Force first six JH-7 female fighter pilots pose for photo

According to a Xinhua News Agency article the first six “”loyal and fearless” female pilots flying with the Xian JH-7 fighter bomber have just finished the training required to perform all-weather air-to-ground missions and are now able to attack and destroy targets located on unfamiliar ground, hidden by fog, using precision munitions.

The female fighter pilots, currently assigned to a PLAAF (People’s Liberation Army Air Force) Regiment, were selected from more than 20 million girls graduated from high school in Sept. 2005. After attending the flying school, they were assigned to a front line squadron in Mar. 2011, where they conducted advanced training that included formation flying, low altitude attack, live firing exercises using conventional weapons.

The Xinhua article depicts the female pilots as “skilled” “loyal” and “fearless” and provides also a group shot of the six JH-7 pilots with flight suits and helmets. Wow, not bad for a totalitarian state where the information on women (and women’s rights..) is usually hidden or classified as secret.

Image credit: Xinhua News Agency

China's 5th generation stealth fighter performing combat maneuver tests over Chengdu

The following videos, once again purposely leaked to impress foreign observers, show China’s 5th generation stealth fighter J-20 at work during test flights at Chengdu. The second, taken on Feb. 26, 2012, at the end of the 70th public test flight, shows the future People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) radar evading plane performing some low level combat maneuvers.

Nothing special to be honest.  Indeed, what’s really amazing is not the turn rate nor maneuverability rather then the take off run of the J-20: extremely short for such a large plane, believed to be around 70 feet in length, with a wingspan of 42 feet (13 m) or more, and expected to have a takeoff weight of 75,000 to 80,000 pounds (34,000 to 36,000 kg) with internal stores only.

Feb. 4:

Feb. 26:

As already written several times, some western analyst believe the J-20 will be more capable than the F-22 and the F-35.

On the contrary, I’m among those who think that the real problem for the U.S. with the J-20 is not with the aircraft’s performances, top speed, equipment and capabilities (even if the US legacy fighters were designed 20 years earlier than current Chinese or Russian fighters of the same “class”); the problem is that China will probably build thousands of them.

Don't get on a Sukhoi Su-27 without wearing this: Russian (and China's Air Force) long range underwear

Long range flights can be extremely critical for combat pilots.
What makes these missions particularly uncomfortable is not only the complexity of the navigation but the lack of restrooms.

The use of urine collection devices called “piddle packs” in small cockpit compels the pilots to disrobe, adjust the ejection seat and distract them from handling the aircraft. A tricky procedure that can be extremely dangerous if lap belts get stuck on the control stick. As happened at least twice in the past causing the loss of two fighter planes (and the succesful ejection of the respective pilots).

Next generation “piddle packs” pump urine from a pilot’s underwear equipped with an inflatable cup and a hose to a sanitary collection bag so they don’t even have to unstrap when they have to go. A system that is particularly useful when wearing not only a flightsuit but also the anti-exposure suit designed for cold water survival.

A similar underwear system was produced in Russia for the Sukhoi Su-27 pilots and transferred to China along with the planes and a full set of pilot flight gear (including ZSH-7 helmets, helmet targeting device, flight suites etc.) when People Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) got the Russian Flankers before China started to manufacture its indigenous version of the plane (the Shenyang J-11A, that entered service in 1998).

The pictures (provided by a source who wishes to remain anonymous), show the Russian underwear delivered to the PLAAF. They should be self-explaining about how it is supposed to work (with the main difference being that the hose is connected to the plane and not to a bag), even if they give no hint of actual comfort…

Anyway, since the Chinese Air Force decided to use cheaper homemade flight gear (and long distance flights were seldom performed) this type of “piddle pack” has disappeared from PLAAF’s warehouse soon becoming a collectors’ item.

China's Light Attack Helicopter Z-19: a silent (rather than radar evading) chopper

The new Z-19 does not have a cool name, but it does have some very interesting features.

The use of the word ‘Stealth’ is probably a little too strong a term for this new helicopter as the stealth used is not in the classical sense. In the case of the Z-19, it’s acoustic stealthiness along with exhausts that shield the aircraft from Infra-red threats, rather than radar-absorbing materials and shapes like the modified Stealth Black Hawk used in the Osama Bin Laden raid.

The Z-19 is being developed by Harbin Aircraft Industrial Corporation and is suspected to operate alongside the larger Z-10 which is roughly the size of a Ah-64 Apache and is more of a tank killer. Moreover, the Z-10 is now entering front line service with the smaller Z-19 a few years behind.

The Z-19 is roughly the size of an OH-58 Kiowa and made its first flight in May 2010. Although it has been reported that one prototype was lost during September 2010, there are no details of the cause of the crash or even if there were fatalities. The fuselage is the usual slim tandem cockpit design, although unlike most gunship designs the pilot sits in the front seat with the gunner in the elevated rear seat. The chin turret sits in the usual place and the cabin has the distinct look of the Agusta A-129 about it.

Moving to the rear of the aircraft, the Z-19 has exhuasts that point up reducing the infra-red signature, ‘stubby’ wings with hard points and the tail boom whose look remind the AH-66 Comanche with the fenestron tail. It’s the latter that gives clues to its acoustic damping that is ideal for a forward scout able to creep up on an unsuspecting enemy or provide targeting data for its partner in crime the Z-10.

The Z-19 boasts armour plating for its crew along with crash resisting seats; the chin turret has FLIR, TV and a laser range finder. The chopper can carry a wide weapons load including 23mm gun pods, anti-tank and air-to-air missiles giving it a wide-ranging punch. A range of 700km, a service ceiling of 2,400 m and a cruising speed of 245 km/h finishes off the performance figures.

The most interesting thing about the z-19, other than its obvious evolution over previous designs, is its export potential to countries that do not have the big budgets and are looking for a cheaper alternative to the Apache’s, Hinds and Z-10s.

China could find it has a best seller on its hands if it capitalizes on the new helicopters potential.

Its in service date is unknown. However, since it is currently in an advanced flight testing program, the PLAAF should be taking delivery of the Z-19 within the next few years.

Richard Clements for

Image via Chinese Internet