Confidential blueprints and specifications for the planned new US presidential helicopters have been accidentally leaked to the torrents by download-hungry defence contractors, according to reports.
WPXI News reported at the weekend on findings by Pennsylvania security firm Tiversa, tagline: "The P2P Intelligence Experts - Do you know who is searching for and finding your data on the P2P? We do". In this case the people searching for and finding data included Tiversa, who discovered files related to the new VH-71 presidential choppers at an IP address in Tehran.
”We found a file containing entire blueprints and avionics package for Marine One,which is the president's helicopter," Tiversa CEO Bob Boback told WPXI.
"What appears to be a defense contractor in Bethesda, MD had a file sharing program on one of their systems that also contained highly sensitive blueprints for Marine One," he added.
Just as the president's aeroplane, flown by the US Air Force, takes the callsign Air Force One when he boards, his helicopter - operated by the Marines - becomes Marine One. At present the Marine One fleet is made up of ageing VH-3D Sea Kings, but it is planned to replace these with Brit/Italian Merlins, heavily pimped for the mission and known as VH-71s in US service.
The VH-71 programme already has its troubles: the Merlin airframe has struggled to lift all the stuff requested by the US government in the past, and costs have escalated to the point where President Obama has highlighted the project as an example of "procurement gone amuck". The use of European airframes has also offended protectionist sentiment in the US, much though all but the initial few aircraft are planned to be assembled in America.
In a fresh blow it now appears that Lockheed, the US defence giant handling the conversion of the Merlins and acting as middleman between helicopter builders AgustaWestland and the Pentagon, has inadvertently supplied full plans to the torrent fanciers of Iran and other nations worldwide. (There would seem to be little doubt that the Bethesda contractor mentioned by Boback is Lockheed.)
Retired US general Wesley Clark - once seen as a possible primary passenger for Marine One himself, though in the end that didn't pan out - is an adviser to Tiversa.
"We found where this information came from," he told WPXI. "We know exactly what computer it came from. I'm sure that person is embarrassed and may even lose their job, but we know where it came from and we know where it went."
“Once it's out there, it's hard to get it back," added the former NATO supreme commander. "I don't think the full ramifications of this have been understood by the watchdog agencies.”
Tiversa says it has informed the relevant US government authorities. ®