Update as of 5:10am EST: China dismissed allegations that it stole data related to Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as “groundless” on Monday.
"The so-called evidence that has been used to launch groundless accusations against China is completely unjustified," Hong Lei, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, told reporters, according to Reuters.
U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden said Chinese spies stole a huge volume of data related to Lockheed's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Australian Associated Press reported, and military experts say Beijing likely used the information to help develop its latest generation of fighters. Snowden shared signals data documenting the Chinese theft with German magazine Der Spiegel, and the Australian government is aware of the “serious damage” from the breach, the Sydney Morning Herald said.
The Chinese allegedly stole 50 terabytes of data, including information about the fighter's detailed engine schematics, "aft deck heating contour maps," methods for cooling exhaust gases and the method the jet uses to track targets, the Morning Herald said.
China apparently used information stolen from American intelligence through espionage to influence "fifth-generation" fighters, military experts told the Morning Herald. The Chengdu J-20 and the Shenyang J-31 threaten the superiority the West has in the skies.
Last year, Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the country would purchase 58 more F-35 fighters, which cost more than $12 billion, Sky News, Australia, said. "The fifth-generation F-35 is the most advanced fighter in production anywhere in the world and will make a vital contribution to our national security," Abbott said, according to the Morning Herald. The jet was expected enter service with the Australian air force in 2020.
The Australian government has not released an official comment on Snowden's latest disclosures.
Snowden leaked information about the NSA to media outlets in June 2013. Some of the information disclosed, like global surveillance programs, caused controversy. While his actions have been labeled criminal by the U.S. government, some consider him a hero. After he allegedly released hundreds of thousands of secret documents, Snowden took refuge in Russia. If he came back to the U.S., he would face espionage charges.
Snowden has continued to speak out since making his original disclosures, and is to appear at a Hawaii conference via video, KHON, Honolulu, reported. He is to talk after a showing of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Citizenfour” at the First Amendment conference at the Hawaii Convention Center Feb. 14.