Here’s The Super Secret Tech A Navy Officer Might Have Given To China

Russ Read | Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter

Some of the Navy’s most sensitive and strategically important reconnaissance technology may have been provided to the Chinese by accused spy and flight officer Lt. Commander Edward Lin.

The technology Lin may have passed to Chinese through his alleged espionage activities allows the EP-3E Aries II and P-8A Poseidon aircraft to intercept enemy electronic communications through advanced sensors. Lin, who was born in Taiwan, was taken into custody April 8 on allegations of engaging in espionage on behalf of the Chinese government.

“The area in which Lin was working matches up with Chinese areas of interest, including their military modernization programs and the tension over the South China Sea,” said Mike Sulick, the one-time head of the Central Intelligence Agency’s counter-intelligence division, to Foreign Policy.

The EP-3E Aries II is a naval propeller-drive multi-intelligence reconnaissance plane, and plays a key role in the Navy’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. The original model was based on signals intelligence (or SIGINT), but it has since been upgraded to perform multiple intelligence roles for the Navy, including providing “near real-time tactical SIGINT and full motion video intelligence.” The aircraft has the ability to gather information “deep within targeted territory.” The information collected by Poseidon’s crew allows them to provide military leadership with crucial intelligence, including direct threat warning, battle space information, anti-submarine and anti-aircraft information.

The P-8A Poseidon is a twin jet engine aircraft tasked with anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and ISR missions. Like the Aries, it is also highly diverse in its capabilities and provides crucial intelligence to theater commanders. In particular, the P-8A is a key component of the Navy’s patrol capabilities, meaning it is one of the aircraft monitoring China’s militarization of islands around the South China Sea.

Lin was assigned to a naval flight unit in which both aircraft were used extensively, and he likely had intimate knowledge of the technology and capabilities of both. Prior to his most recent posting in Norfolk, Va., Lin headed the Special Projects Patrol Squadron Two ‘Wizards’ in Hawaii. Lin at one point served aboard the Aries II as a sensor coordinator. While it is unknown what exactly Lin passed to the Chinese, it is obvious they would be interested in gaining a greater understanding of U.S. ISR capabilities at a time when U.S.-China tensions over China’s build-up in the South China sea are a serious security concern for both parties.

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