Hackers have stolen terabytes of data about the design and electronics inside the Defense Department's Joint Strike Fighter program, The Wall Street Journal reported last night. The $300 billion jet is the most expensive program in DOD history, and the compromise of its proprietary designs could seriously jeopardize its air superiority.
Some former officials have intimated that the attacks appear to have originated in China, but it's likely that anyone skilled enough to pull off such a heist would be sure to conceal their true location. Crimes like this week's may prompt President Obama to push forward with his plans to create a White House post devoted to computer security.
The JSF figher, or F-35 Lightning II, is being built by Lockheed Martin, and is powered by an on-board computer running an operating system of 7.5 million lines of code. The company already has prototypes in the air, and the Pentagon has budgeted money in 2009 and 2010 for the purchase of the fighters. Luckily, the most sensitive portions of code and design—that relate to flight controls and sensors—are isolated from networks that connect to the Internet.
The JSF's seminal advantage over past fighters will be its suitability for sea- and land-based deployment. The fighter, about the size of an F-16 and smaller than an F-22, can take off and land vertically, as seen in the video below.