The U.S. military sent a giant C-17 cargo plane to an air show in China this week as a way to strengthen its relationship with the People’s Liberation Army there, despite fears among security and policy experts that doing so puts American technology secrets in jeopardy and also risks angering an important Asia ally.
The decision to send a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III to the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition at the Zhuhai Jinwan airport starting Tuesday is fraught for a number of reasons, defense and security officials told Defense One, noting that President Barack Obama’s arrival in the region this week to help bolster ties with Beijing points up how political factors may have outweighed security, optical and even legal concerns.
The concern that some super secret aspect of the C-17 might be compromised is silly. The C-17 has been openly displayed at airshows both domestically and internationally for years. If anyone wanted inside pics of the plane, all they have to do is google. Any truly sensitive information about it would be either in the written materials such as handbooks and operating manuals, or in the actual software code. The Chinese may be pretty good hackers, but they won’t exactly have the chance to crack open the UYKs on board.
Are there legitimate cost and optics arguments against going to the airshow? Maybe. Who knows?