The Secret Way America and Russia Steal Each Other's Weapons to Crack Their Secrets

Michael Peck

Key point: Both superpowers use proxies and proxy-conflicts as opportunities to spy on each other.

Last month, Russia claimed that it recovered U.S. Tomahawk missiles that hit Syria, and would crack their secrets.

Soon after, Russia’s Sputnik News published a triumphal piece about various American weapons captured by Russia—or rather its allies—and turned over to Moscow for analysis.

The first American war booty came the Korean War, where the Soviets got their hands on an M46 Patton tank. “Engineers got their hands on several other weapons systems, too, including a late-model F-51D Mustang fighter,” Sputnik noted, ignoring that the Mustang was just a World War II leftover.

Ironically, Sputnik News emphasized that its survey of captured weapons did not include Lend Lease arms sent by the U.S. to the Soviet Union during World War II—which doesn’t count the U.S. B-29 bomber, damaged during a raid on Japan in 1944, that landed in Siberia and was frantically copied by the Soviets to become the Tu-4 bomber.

In September 1958, a Communist Chinese MiG-17 “paralyzed” a Taiwanese F-86 Sabre, which was turned over to Moscow. “The captured Sabre helped Soviet designers immensely in the development of the K-13 short-range infrared homing air-to-air missile, which would go on to serve for several decades,” Sputnik added.

Vietnam proved a treasure trove of American gear, including F-5E fighters that were “used extensively in evaluation flights against the MiG-21bis and the MiG-23, discovering their shortcomings and ultimately aiding in the development of the MiG-23MLD and the supermaneuverable MiG-29 fighter.”

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