PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Wargaming accuracy and the Official Secrets Act

A recent online debate over modelling of the Challenger 2 tank in the popular digital wargame War Thunder led one player—apparently, a British Army tank commander with the Royal Tank Regiment—to post the classified Challenger 2 Army Equipment Support Publication in an online forum to prove their point. According to UK Defence Journal:

…excerpts from the document had their ‘UK RESTRICTED’ label crossed out and a stamp of ‘UNCLASSIFIED’ added, as well as having various parts fully blanked. One forum user remarked that “the cover for instance had basically everything except CHALLENGER 2 blacked out”.

The forum user posted the following alongside the now removed AESP in an effort to have an issue with the in-game design of the vehicle rectified.

“Linking those screenshots with the following edited image from the AESP’s which is meant to show the relationship of the various components. The image isn’t exactly to scale as its only meant to show the position of components relative to each other but it works for the point I’m trying to make here. The trunnion’s sit centrally of the rotor. The trunnions support the rotor in the turret structure and the GCE sub components as previously stated are all mounted to the rotor.”

The (Russian) gaming company removed the images from their community forum, and a (non-Russian) discussion moderator noted:

“We have written confirmation from MoD that this document remains classified. By continuing to disseminate it you are in violation of the Official Secrets Act as stated by the warning on the cover of the document, an offence which can carry up to a 14 year prison sentence if prosecuted. Of this you are already aware, as a service person you have signed a declaration that you understand the act and what actions it compels you to take. Every time you post this you place us (International representatives of Gaijin), especially any UK citizens, in hot water as the warning so helpfully states that unauthorised retention of a protected document is an offence.”

The entire episode suggests a new form of intelligence collection: TROLLINT, whereby you goad wargamers with access to sensitive material into sharing classified specifications online by trash-talking their favourite weapons systems.

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