Restricted military info is being posted on the War Thunder forums so much these days, nobody really cares anymore (except War Thunder moderators)

 Westland Apache WAH-64D Longbow helicopter (UK Army registration ZJ206) displays at Kemble Air Day 2008, Kemble Airport, Gloucestershire, England.
(Image credit: Arpingstone/Wikimedia (public domain))

There was a time when the leak of classified military documents on the War Thunder forums brought surprise and amusement in equal measure. Why would anyone do a treason just to win an argument on an internet forum? That actually might be more relatable than some of us care to admit, but the point is that it was a pretty big deal when it happened. These days, though? Not so much.

The most recent criminal offense (for the moment, anyway) involves documents relating to the AH-64D Apache Longbow, an attack helicopter used primarily by the US Army. Earlier this month, someone posted a copy of the vehicle's technical manual on the War Thunder forums, and virtually no one—aside from the War Thunder forum mods—even noticed.

It's not clear why the technical manual was posted, although there was some debate in August as to whether or not the Longbow is now obsolete by modern standards, which seems like the sort of thing that might really set off a die-hard Apache fan. 

Whatever the reason, the doc was posted and then quickly taken down by moderators, which sparked a brief debate on whether the document was actually classified in the first place, and if the guy who posted it should have been suspended.

This is actually a kind of interesting debate. The Apache is nearly 50 years old—it first flew in 1975 and entered service in '86—and the Longbow variant isn't much newer, dating back to 1997. And the technical manual, which was last updated in 2002, is readily available for download through a simple Google search. Seems safe enough, right? 

Well, no. The first page of the manual states clearly that distribution is authorized only for "Department of Defense and DoD contractors," and that "severe criminal penalties" await anyone who violates the export restrictions. Old age notwithstanding, those restrictions still stand, and War Thunder forum rules very clearly state that "you are not allowed to publish any Classified information and Export-restricted military-technical data other than Declassified information."

(Image credit: Gaijin Entertainment (War Thunder forums))

But also interesting is the reaction the leak provoked. Unlike incidents in 2021, where War Thunder players posted classified intel in order to win arguments about tanks, and the world at large did a collective double take at the absurdity of it all, this incident barely rated a yawn. Some of that is probably due to the age and accessibility of the shared info, but there's also weariness with the act itself. It comes off more like someone looking for attention rather than trying to make a point: Instead of uploading the whole technical doc, you could just as easily say "google it" and get on with your day if all you really want to do is prove that you're right and they're wrong. 

And people are getting tired of it: As redditor ALocalBarista put it, "Woo... they 'leaked' the almighty secret documents for the same vehicle for the 35th time this week? That's insane."

It's not quite the 35th time this week, but it is the third time within a month that this has happened: At the tail end of August someone posted the manual for the Eurofighter Typhoon DA7, and just a couple weeks ago a guy shared technical details on the F117 Nighthawk. In those cases, like the Apache, the information wasn't technically classified, but it was export-restricted, which puts it off limits for the War Thunder forums. It also creates headaches for people who follow this sort of thing: One guy complained on Twitter that "we're losing track of actual classified leaks because the wiki peeps keep putting unclassified doc posts as classified leaks."

Okay, yeah, that's still pretty funny.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.