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Report: Gamer leaks classified Chinese tank schematic to win online argument

A Chinese People's Liberation Army Type 99A tank. (Photo by Tyg728, Wikimedia Commons/Released)
June 06, 2022

A gamer who plays the popular free-to-play online military vehicle combat game “War Thunder” reportedly leaked the classified schematics of a real Chinese tank shell, all in an effort to win an online argument.

“War Thunder” has been hugely popular with gamers around the world and the game’s developers host a forum for fans to discuss the game. A May 31 post on the “War Thunder” forum went viral when users realized it revealed what appears to be a schematic for the real-life Chinese DTC10-125 armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS) shell, which is also available as an item in the game.

The “War Thunder” forum post included a picture of the DTC10-125 shell’s tungsten penetrator, sitting on a technical drawing of the shell, written in Chinese.

According to the U.K. Defence Journal, the leaked technical drawing describes the shell’s efficacy against composite and rolled homogenous armor (RHA), as well as its muzzle velocity at ambient temperature as well as the range of factors potentially affecting the shell’s trajectory.

The UK Defense Journal reported that some of the information about the DTC10-125 shell had already been in brochures, or described in claims by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). If the image posted on the “War Thunder” forum is real, it would be the first internal documentation on the shell.

The Chinese tank shell is by the PLA on their ZTZ Type 96, 96A, 99 and 99A tanks and is one of the PLAs main anti-tank shells. Task & Purpose reported the forum user leaked the documents because he wanted the Chinese tanks to have better in-game stats when he played.

After the post went viral “War Thunder” forum moderators quickly removed the image, adding a disclaimer that states, “Materials related to the DTC10-125 are classified in China.”

The leak of the Chinese anti-tank shell is not the first time classified schematics have been shared in the “War Thunder” forum.

In July 2021, a forum user who described himself as the commander of a British Challenger II tank crew, shared some classified schematics for the tank in the hopes that the game’s developers would improve the in-game design for the tank. The “War Thunder” forum user said Gaijin Entertainment, the Hungarian company that develops the video game, “didn’t model it correctly.”

The U.K. Defence Journal noted the “War Thunder” forum moderators initially declined to deal with the Challenger II schematics until they could be certain they were declassified. The forum moderators then confirmed with the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense that the document remains classified.

The “War Thunder” forum saw another leak of classified tank schematics last fall. This time, a user who described himself as a French army tank crew member shared documents for the LeClerc main battle tank, again because he wanted a more accurate depiction of the tank in the video game.