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Inspired from this news -

The immediate question after reading the news will arose in the minds of novice people like me that - How the aircraft manufacturers cope with this issue? Which leads to the main enquiry of.

What countermeasures are taken by aircraft manufacturers to prevent someone from reverse engineering their parts ,systems , equipment , electronics or mainly material constituents etc. Are there any other ways to prevent someone from reverse engineering military fighter jet technology ?

Note - I know there are various companies and thousands of components in a fighter jet , also such a knowledge is the trade secret of the companies. Considering that the question didn't require a very detailed technical answer but some basic measures and precautions that is best known in avaition industry in United States and is taken while either designing or exporting military fighter jets to other countries so that the material Constitution of components /parts , values of electronic components etc. remains a secret or hidden.

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    $\begingroup$ @ymb1 - No I am not expecting classified information and that is why I said in question that "Best known to us or publicly known in Industry" and is not classified. $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2021 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ As a suggestion, perhaps word it to ask about previously circumvented measures $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Sep 13, 2021 at 19:23
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    $\begingroup$ @ymb1 - Do you mean what measures were taken in past ? Like in cold war era etc.But I think the question will then become of history of design. I want to know the current solution , since the reverse engineering of military jets , helicopters by china is hot topic now a days. $\endgroup$ Sep 13, 2021 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ Quite detailed related article: Military-Technological Superiority and the Limits of Imitation, Reverse Engineering, and Cyber Espionage $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Sep 13, 2021 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ Step #1: Don't let them get their hands on one... $\endgroup$ Sep 15, 2021 at 1:35

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My guess is that to reverse engineer a part for something like a jet engine, the most difficult part is to get the material right. There are usually some pretty high-tech metals/alloys and they are usually cutting edge stuff so making a part that looks right may not be enough.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes that is absolutely correct. I am interested to know is there any way to hide material composition of engine or any other parts itself like a coating used as camouflage or completely sealing the parts so that nobody can disassemble it.Or making some specialized tools for some parts so that only their technical team can replace/service them and are forbidden to be serviced by others. $\endgroup$ Sep 14, 2021 at 4:31
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    $\begingroup$ You may be able to tell the composition of the metal used but to replicate it is not simple as there are a lot of variables in the forging and treatment process. That itself is a show-stopper. $\endgroup$
    – Anilv
    Sep 14, 2021 at 5:43
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    $\begingroup$ Yes , that is why it's tremendously difficult to manufacturer aircraft engines other than few companies , who have decades if experience and know how in the technology. $\endgroup$ Sep 14, 2021 at 6:04
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    $\begingroup$ Correct. As was demonstrated by the Israelis when the Mossad stole the blueprints for the Mirage from the factory. They stole the specifications for all the custom alloys as well. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Sep 14, 2021 at 7:00
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One of the best ways to prevent loss of industrial and national defense secrets is simply not to talk about them. A hostile government cannot reverse engineer what it doesn’t know about. Therefore it’s critical to keep the number of people involved or know about a project to a minimum. Information sharing is limited to a need to know only basis, even to those who possess higher levels of security clearance higher than that required. During the “black” days of the F-117 program, even the base secretaries had to hold at least a secret clearance, but had no idea the jet existed until it was declassified, simply because they didn’t have the need to know.

Quite often advanced R&D programs are located deep within pre-existing buildings used for commonly known programs of little significance, where foot and auto traffic are are indistinguishable. So too, are classified infrastructure systems like computer servers and storage areas for classified engineering archives out of sight and out of mind.

But as G. Gordon Liddy once said, the only way three people can keep a secret is if two of them are dead. Security slips do happen, either by accident or intentionally. Limiting who knows what is an effective way to contain damage from a breach. And the more you know the tighter the background checks and scrutiny of your life is prior to even granting you a clearance. And things get hushed up. Again during the stealth fighter program a shop worker on the floor became so enamored with a young lady outside of the company that he brought her plans of the jet to impress her. The woman had the peace of mind to contact Lockheed, who merely fired the employee as opposed to pursuing criminal charges (I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to hear the conversation between that poor guy and the FBI agents doing the exit interview!)

Specialized sites which deal specifically in “black” ie highly classified, compartmentalized programs are rare, but usually located in remote and inhospitable areas away from prying eyes. They operate on specific schedules when spy satellites are not overflying and often in the dead of night to limit viewing.

UPDATE

In regards to capture and reverse engineering an aircraft by a hostile government, if the other side can get hold of an airplane intact and unharmed, there’s no reason they cannot carefully disassemble and reverse engineer the thing. This has happened on multiple occasions - soviets captured intact B29 and Rolls Royce Nene engines to reverse engineer into copies like the Tupolev TU-4 and Kilmov VK-1 respectively. Sensitive tactical aircraft which are damaged and unflyable can be destroyed to prevent capture, as was the case of the as yet unidentified stealth helicopters used in the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011.

The biggest risks are in the form of aircraft sold or built under export licenses to foreign nations in good relations with the USA and its western allies which may also be open to selling the aircraft with nations hostile to the US and the west. This can be done in the form of export and license production agreements between the United States and a country as part of an arms deal which prohibits sales of certain countries. Another method is downgrading the aircraft and onboard technology for export aircraft. This can come in the form of derated or inferior types of engines (the proposed F-16/79), inferior avionics, radars, and mission systems and even RCS size limits as seen on the F-35. This allows a nation to purchase a fighter suited to its defense needs but is inferior in capability to the same type flown by US and western armed forces.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes your answer covers most part of hiding technology domestically from own people and competitors. But what about export versions which are physically present elsewhere? Also pls. take a look at my comment in one of the answers below. $\endgroup$ Sep 14, 2021 at 4:39
  • $\begingroup$ @SwiftPushkar those tend to lack the most sensitive equipment and thus be less problematic when some potential adversary gets their hands on it. E.g. different engine, radar, lacking the ECM and ESM suites from the full version. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Sep 14, 2021 at 7:02
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    $\begingroup$ The Soviets didn't capture the Rolls-Royce Nene, they bought it directly. $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Sep 14, 2021 at 22:06
  • $\begingroup$ Technically it was gifted to them $\endgroup$ Sep 14, 2021 at 22:16
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The simplest thing to do is not use the aircraft over enemy controled territory.

This is why the Gloster Meteor and early American jets deployed during the late stages of WW2 weren't allowed to fly over German occupied areas. The allies didn't want to risk them falling into German hands and the technology used to improve German jets.

Similarly early during the Korean war Sabres weren't allowed to fly over communist controlled areas for the same reason (though this was later abandoned when the MiG-15 appeared which was a rude surprise as it ate F-84s and F-80s for breakfast and was deemed both enough of a threat and at or near par with the F-86 that hiding the F-86 was no longer essential).

Of course this does rather limit how you can employ your superweapon, it is effectively only now useful for area defense and maybe as a standoff launch platform for longer range missiles. But there is precedent for it being done.

For much the same reason quite a bit of effort was employed during various conflicts to bomb crash sites in order to make the wreckage useless for intelligence gathering by the enemy. Sometimes it worked, sometimes (think the F-117 crash in Yugoslavia) it did not.

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One technique that has been used in the past / is likely still used - are removable parts.

So when the aircraft is sitting at rest somewhere (including on your base) the "critical" parts are removed - think things like software, hardware crypto, comms modules, etc. Yes, can't really use that to protect things like engines..

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