It is no secret that information dissemination is a tightly regulated affair in the People’s Republic of China, especially anything linked to its military. In what could be a brutal shock to the communist country, its military secrets have gone viral on social media.
On the forum of a free-to-play multiplayer war simulation video game called “War Thunder,” a Chinese gamer disclosed what appeared to be confidential military information.
The leak was first firs pointed out by @Osinttechnical last week on social media.
The player reportedly shared an image of a military document of the shell and possibly the shell itself, placed over the document. The system has not been entirely unclassified by the PLA. The image was swiftly removed from War Thunder’s forums. However, it has since gone viral.
Unsurprisingly, the user was banned from the forum. Gaijin, moderator of the platform, told gaming review and information website Kotaku: “Our community managers immediately banned the user and deleted his post, as the information on this particular shell is still classified in China. Publishing classified information on any vehicle of any nation at War Thunder forum is prohibited, and the game developers never use it in their work.”
A Chinese MBT crew member may have just leaked (a lot of) classified shell information on the Warthunder forum. Article soon.
— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) June 1, 2022
The Chinese player posted the classified document not with a malignant intention but as an attempt to get the developers to change some in-game statistics. Even though the image has since been removed, it is still circulating on almost all social media sites ranging from Twitter to Reddit.
The weapon in question is the DTC10-125, an anti-tank round used by the Chinese military in current times, according to Polygon. The job of the weapon system (the shell) is to punch through the metal and breach the interior compartments of a tank, knocking it out.
It is also known as a kinetic energy penetrator and its advanced capability is the reason why it is kept under wraps by China.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) launched the Type 99 in 2001 to replace the Type 88, which had been in service since the late 1980s. It has a 125 mm smoothbore cannon with ATGM capability, excellent mobility, digital electronics, and optics, as well as modular composite armor and tandem-charge destroying ERA.
With over 1,200 tanks manufactured over the last two decades, Type 99 is a critical part of China’s military.
This is the reason why the leak has left China red-faced, with closely guarded details of its shell now floating everywhere on the internet. However, Beijing could probably find some respite in the fact that it is not the only one to have gone through the ordeal.
Ordeal Of British, French Tanks
In July last year, classified documents outlining the specifications of the British Challenger 2 Tank were released online, violating the Official Secrets Act, which is in effect in over 40 countries.
The player, who claimed to be a real-life Challenger 2 tank commander and gunnery instructor, argued that the tank’s design ought to be changed in the popular combat video game “War Thunder.” He argued that the designers of the game had failed to “model it properly.”
The player used pages from the official Challenger 2 Army Equipment Support Publication — a manual and maintenance guide – to back up his claim.
The excerpts from the documents, some of which were severely redacted, appeared to reveal certain documents had the “UK RESTRICTED” mark crossed out and a stamp of “UNCLASSIFIED” applied.
A few months later, another similar incident was reported concerning a French tank. On the forum for War Thunder, a French Army tank crewman leaked a piece of the classified manual for the Leclerc Main Battle Tank.
After getting into an argument on the game’s forums about the in-game depiction of France’s Leclerc Main Battle Tank, the user released a section of what was effectively the tank’s handbook.
The US has also witnessed a similar incident with its military secrets. Several years ago, about seven Navy SEALS, part of an elite team of US soldiers, were reprimanded for divulging secret information to a video game forum in 2012.
The seven were sanctioned for dereliction of duty, disclosure of classified material, use of command gear, and violating orders while serving as consultants for the development of the “Medal of Honor: Warfighter” video game.
However, one thing becomes clear now – no matter how closely guarded, all kinds of information can make their way out of China. This incident could lead to tighter regulations for gamers in the communist country.