Two Chinese soldiers were "co-conspirators" in a plot to steal US military secrets, including designs for the F-35 stealth fighter and other warplanes, a Canadian newspaper reported Tuesday.
The unnamed pair allegedly worked with a recent immigrant to Canada now facing extradition to the United States to identify and raid secure databases of US military contractors, said the Globe and Mail newspaper, citing a prosecution summary of a cyberespionage probe launched in 2014.
It is the first publicly-stated link to the Chinese army in a hacking case that first came to light in 2013, when US officials revealed a broad Chinese campaign of espionage had gained access to designs for two dozen major weapons systems critical to missile defenses, combat aircraft and naval ships.
The US Defense Science Board, a senior advisory group with government and civilian experts, had however stopped short in its report of accusing Beijing of stealing the designs.
The so-called book of record cited by the Globe and Mail did not make it clear whether the two soldiers allegedly involved in the conspiracy were working for themselves or at the behest of Beijing.
According to the newspaper, the "two Chinese military officers" were allegedly directed toward email accounts of American aviation engineers by Sun Bin, a 50-year-old Chinese aviation entrepreneur living in Vancouver.
The hackers then reportedly mined corporate networks for engineering manuals related to the F-35, C-17, and F-22 military aircraft.
They would consult with Su Bin on which documents they should try to take, according to the Globe and Mail.
Eventually the pair were identified through intercepted emails that contained their name, rank, military unit and other information.
Su Bin was arrested in June 2014 and ordered extradited to the United States last September. He remains in Vancouver pending an appeal.