In context: War Thunder is a combat simulation game that takes realism very seriously, but apparently not as seriously as some of its players. In 2019, the game came to include the Challenger 2 main battle tank. It took on a pivotal but polarizing role on the virtual battlefield, and the precision and balance of its features became a point of contention among gamers.
Last week, a player with the username Pyrophoric won a discussion on the War Thunder forums when aware Challenger 2 schematics taken from its Army Equipment Support Publication (AESP), loc something like user manual. It showed that in real life, the tank is less vulnerable to gunfire at the junction between its turret and hull than it is in the game.
The AESP had the “Restricted in the UK” labels crossed out and replaced with “Unclassified” stamps; note that the UK generally refers to documents that were previously classified, but are no longer classified, as “declassified” and not “unclassified”.
Forum moderators immediately found the post suspicious, with one pointing out that “the last time such a document was claimed to be ‘unclassified’, it was in fact still classified.”
Which begs the question: how often does this happen?
Gaijin, the War Thunder developer, contacted the UK Ministry of Defense and was told that Challenger 2’s AESP is still classified. “I can confirm that it appears to be a genuine extract,” said a representative of the Defense Ministry. One of the main moderators of the Gaijin forum addressed Pyrophoric with the the next sentence.
“We have written confirmation from the Ministry of Defense that this document remains classified. By continuing to disseminate it, you are violating the Official Secrets Law as indicated in the warning on the cover of the document, a crime that can carry up to 14 years of Prison Sentence if prosecuted You already know about this, as a service person you have signed a statement that you understand the act and what actions you are required to take.
Every time you post this, you put us (Gaijin’s international representatives), especially UK citizens, in trouble as the warning so kindly states that unauthorized retention of a protected document is a crime. “
Pyrophoric has not published since, although it has been online. At the time of writing, your account he’s still active and has an “outstanding community reputation,” according to the forum’s popularity rating system. On his profile, Pyrophoric says he’s a 40-year-old male. He claims to be a former Challenger 2 commander, an Army instructor, and a former member of the Armored Development and Testing Unit.
Unfortunately, Gaijin has not taken this opportunity to make his Challenger 2 model more accurate, and has said they don’t plan to update it. Several players managed to complain before the Challenger 2 thread was closed to prevent further security breaches.
Image Credit: Cpl Ross Fernie RLC