A British scientist has been arrested over an alleged Chinese plot to steal secrets about the RAF’s new stealth fighter.
The 73-year-old is accused of passing information to Beijing and was detained on Tuesday by officers from Scotland Yard’s SO15 counter-terrorism devision on suspicion of breaking the Official Secrets Act, reports The Sun.
He has been named by the paper as Bryn Jones, a former chief combustion technologist at Rolls-Royce, one of the company’s that worked on the development of the highly sophisticated F-35B jet.
The development of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II began in 1992 and is set to finish this year.
According to his Linkdin page, Jones worked at Rolls Royce from 1968-2003 and is currently a ‘visiting professor’ at the Xi’an Aeronautical University in China. He has reportedly denied any wrongdoing.
In a statement, the Met Police said: “At approximately 14.25 on Tuesday officers arrested a man in Derbyshire as part of an investigation under the Official Secrets Act.
“The man, who is in his 70s and worked within private industry, has been taken to a police station in Derbyshire where he remains in custody.
“We are not prepared to discuss further at this stage given the nature of the investigation.”
The first of the UK’s F35s landed this month and are the most advanced fighter aircraft ever made.
The multimillion-pound supersonic aircraft have been stationed in America since their manufacture, being tested and used for training by Royal Air Force and Royal Navy pilots.
Four of the jets, which had been based at US Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, crossed the Atlantic – in a journey more than eight hours long – to become permanently stationed in the UK.
Landing at RAF Marham in Norfolk, the home base of the F-35, the fighter jets touched down two months ahead of schedule at around 8pm, with the officer commanding 617 squadron, Wing Commander John Butcher, doing so first.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “These formidable fighters are a national statement of our intent to protect ourselves and our allies from intensifying threats across the world.
“With a game-changing ability to collect crucial intelligence, fight wars and tackle terrorism, these are the most advanced jets in British history.
The jets will be jointly operated by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy and will operate from land and sea, including off the decks of the new £3.1 billion Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers.
Britain currently has 15 F-35Bs – the short take-off and vertical landing variant of the jets – and has pledged to purchase 138 in total from American Aviation giant Lockheed Martin.