Classified details of the British Army’s main battle tank, the Challenger 2, have been leaked online after a player of a tank battle video game disputed its accuracy.
The player, who claimed to have been a real-life Challenger 2 tank commander and artillery instructor, questioned the tank’s design in the popular combat video game “War Thunder,” arguing that it needed a change. He claimed that the game designers had failed to “model it right.”
To back up his argument, the player posted pages from the official Army Equipment Support Post Challenger 2: A Maintenance Manual and Guide.
Excerpts from the documents, some of which were heavily redacted, appeared to show that some documents had the “UK RESTRICTED” label crossed out and a stamp of “NOT CLASSIFIED”, the UK Defense Journal website reported.
He said the Defense Equipment and Support division of the Defense Ministry had seen the documents and said they appeared “to be a genuine excerpt.” “It certainly has not been published under FOI (Freedom of Information) previously or considered for writing.”
The player identified the documents as belonging to a tank at the Tidworth garrison in Wiltshire, the headquarters of the Royal Tank Regiment that operates the Challenger 2 tanks.
War Thunder is a popular video game in which thousands of players around the world can simultaneously control planes, land vehicles, and warships from the United States, Germany, Russia, Great Britain, China, and other nations.
It was created and published by a company called Gaijin Entertainment which is listed as based in Cyprus, but was originally founded in Moscow, Russia, where it still has offices.
Last year the game had a tank event with Russian and Chinese tanks performing tasks. The event was partnered with the Information Systems Department of the Russian Defense Ministry.
The game operators have removed many of the posts containing the classified material after the sensitivity of the documents became apparent.
A spokesperson for the site said: “We make it very clear that we will not handle any source material unless it is publicly available and completely declassified with the rights to prove it.”
Later, the gaming website posted a message saying that the document was still being classified. It read: “We have a written confirmation from the Ministry of Defense that this document remains classified. If you continue to spread it, you are violating the Official Secrets Act as indicated in the warning on the cover of the document, a crime that can carry a penalty of up to 14 years in prison if prosecuted.
“Every time you post this, you put us (Gaijin’s international representatives), especially UK citizens, in hot water, as the warning indicates that the unauthorized retention of a protected document is an open matter.”
The Challenger remains a key part of the UK’s defense plans and the British Army recently announced that it is embarking on a massive £ 800 million upgrade to Challenger tanks as part of its restructuring plans.
A spokeswoman for the Defense Ministry said they did not comment on the leaked documents.
He added: “We take all unauthorized disclosures of information very seriously. This incident will be reviewed and, if appropriate, an investigation will be initiated and mitigations will be implemented to prevent a recurrence. “