The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence says that it will be reviewing an apparent incident where classified schematics pertaining to the Challenger 2 were uploaded to the forums of a video game.
In response to inquiries by Overt Defense, a MoD spokesperson said:
“We take all unauthorised disclosures of information extremely seriously. This incident will be reviewed and if appropriate, an investigation will be launched, and mitigations put in place to prevent reoccurrences.
We do not comment on leaked documents.”
On July 15, a forum user of the online vehicle shooter game War Thunder uploaded breech schematics from the Challenger 2 Army Equipment Support Publication (a guide for planning staff, operators and technicians on how to operate, maintain or repair the platform) in “support” of their argument that game developers Gaijin Entertainment had wrongly modeled the relevant areas on the in-game rendition of the Challenger 2, leaving it with thinner armor than in reality alongside an incorrect layout of gun drive components.
The Tidworth-based user in question claims to be a Challenger 2 tank commander with experience as an armored vehicle instructor and with the British Army’s Armoured Trials Development Unit. The schematics had the “UK RESTRICTED” classification markings on the documents struck through, with an “UNCLASSIFIED” stamp added.
While another user requested that the information in the schematics be used to update the gun mantlet thickness of the in-game Challenger 2, a community manager stated that proof of the documents’ declassification would be required, citing a previous incident where “unclassified” documents submitted as evidence turned out to have actually been classified information that should never have been shared, saying “We make it very clear that we will not handle any source material unless it is publicly available and fully declassified with the rights to prove that”. Overt Defense understands that the earlier incident in question involved the game’s Challenger 2 as well, where an improvement to the game vehicle’s turret traverse rate was reverted after the document it was based on was found to be restricted information.
Later, a senior technical moderator for the game stated that Defence Equipment & Support had notified them that the AESP schematics had not been released under a freedom of information request, or had ever been considered for declassification. Additionally, DE&S stated that the “UNCLASSIFIED” stamp was not recognized as being in use with DE&S, with the moderator continuing:
“We have written confirmation from MoD that this document remains classified. By continuing to disseminate it you are in violation of the Official Secrets Act as stated by the warning on the cover of the document, an offence which can carry up to a 14 year prison sentence if prosecuted. Of this you are already aware, as a service person you have signed a declaration that you understand the act and what actions it compels you to take. Every time you post this you place us (International representatives of Gaijin), especially any UK citizens, in hot water as the warning so helpfully states that unauthorised retention of a protected document is an offence.”
Alongside the removal of the AESP schematics from all posts featuring them in the thread, the forum thread has since been locked, with the community manager commenting that “There is no valid source material that can be used. Therefore no change will take place.” The forum user in question has received a warning from forum moderators for posting the classified documents as well, and it is not currently clear as to whether further action will be taken by Gaijin with regards to the user or the thread.