The Really Strange Way Russia Learned About America's Stealth Weapons

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The Really Strange Way Russia Leaned About America's Stealth Weapons

The Americans were up to something, and the Soviets knew it.

In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, the U.S. military was quietly developing sophisticated stealth technology meant to help aircraft evade detection by radar and other sensors.

Soviet intelligence agents had a pretty good idea what was going on. Not necessarily because they had eavesdropped on Pentagon communications or infiltrated the U.S. aerospace industry. They knew about stealth because they routinely read and translated American trade magazines and hobbyist books. Specifically, the reporting of one man, Bill Sweetman.

That’s the surprising conclusion of a declassified Central Intelligence Agency memo dated August 1988. “Bill Sweetman is frequently cited in Soviet military publications,” states the 10-page memo entitled “U.S. Stealth Programs and Technology: Soviet Exploitations of the Western Press.”

The memo describes Sweetman as “one of the most well-respected and authoritative reporters covering U.S. stealth programs,” and says that Sweetman’s reporting accounted for 40 percent of the references to U.S. and European press reports in Soviet literature on stealth. And partially as a result, the Soviets “likely have a good understanding of U.S. stealth programs” and “have begun a stealth development program,” the 25-year-old CIA memo claims.

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