You can really hear the exasperation in this terse statement from Konstantin Govorun, head of PR at War Thunder publisher Gaijin Entertainment: “Our moderators quickly nuked the post, deleted the files and banned the user. This is probably 12th time this happens.”
That line comes by way of military-focused outlet Task & Purpose, which asked War Thunder’s publisher for comment last week after Niche Gamer reported that images of yet another restricted military document had been posted on the War Thunder forums and removed. Wikipedia’s collaborative record-keeping puts the number of War Thunder forum military document leaks and other incidents at 10, but at this point it is not hard to believe that there could be other undocumented incidents, so maybe it is 12, as Govorun estimates.
The document in this case is a flight manual for the F-117 Nighthawk. Unlike the first War Thunder forum leak in 2021, which contained classified details about the UK’s Challenger 2 tank, the flight manual posted last week is not classified. The Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk was introduced in the ’80s and retired by the US Air Force in 2008, and it actually isn’t hard to find a PDF of its flight manual online. A similar incident occurred in August, when someone posted an also non-classified Eurofighter Typhoon DA7 manual on the War Thunder forums.
Even though these manuals aren’t classified, freely publishing them online isn’t necessarily allowed. The DA7 manual can’t legally be exported to non-NATO countries, for instance, and that is apparently also true of the F-117 manual. Responding to this incident, the US Air Force told Task & Purpose that companies should avoid letting users post material that is “detrimental to public safety and national security.”
I imagine that any government that wants an F-117 manual has mastered typing “F-117 manual” into Google already, but at this point, you can’t blame the War Thunder folks for deleting any and all official military documents on sight. After the Challenger 2 leak in 2021, classified details about China’s ZTZ-99 tank were leaked in 2022, and details about Russian aircraft appeared in January of this year.
The apparent rise in the casual online dissemination of secret military info over the past several years does sometimes turn out to be a big deal: Back in April, American airman Jack Teixeira was arrested after secret Ukraine war documents that he allegedly leaked on his Discord server spread to a Minecraft-related server and then to a Russian chat service. Teixeira pleaded not guilty in June.