Military engineer could trade Russia’s hypersonic secrets for US asylum

Russia's TU-160 bomber advancement at the Tupolev facility was highlighted in the CBP report just as a daily roundup.
Baba Tamim
Russian Tupolev TU-160 jet bomber fly over Kremlin, Russia.
Russian Tupolev TU-160 jet bomber fly over Kremlin, Russia.

Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images 

Russian military bomber engineer who claims to have worked on the TU-160 White Swan or Blackjack, one of Russia's most sophisticated strategic bombers, has promised to expose military secrets to the U.S. government.

An unclassified Customs and Border Protection (CBP) report states that the man and his family arrived at the US-Mexico border in late December and requested asylum, according to a Yahoo News exclusive published on Tuesday. 

"His past employment had included working ... from 2018 to 2021 in the making of a particular type of military airplane at the Tupolev aircraft production facility in the city of Kazan in west-central Russia," as per Jan. 11 CBP report obtained by Yahoo News.

The man claimed that after taking part in anti-Putin demonstrations in support of jailed Russian dissident Alexei Navalny, he feared punishment.

Given his expertise in Russian defense technologies, the CBP authorities find the man credible and potentially valuable to the U.S., noted Yahoo News.

TU-160 bomber info, a tactical advantage? 

The asylum seeker reportedly worked between 2018 and 2021 at the Kazan Tupolev aircraft production factory, which produced the TU-160 bomber.

The aircraft, which is said to be the most sophisticated Russian strategic bomber, was also employed for tactical airstrikes during the conflict in Ukraine.

The value of the information provided by the man, including specifics on the most recent construction program for an improved version of the aircraft.

TU-160 bomber advancement is already underway at the Tupolev facility, which was highlighted in the CBP report as a daily roundup of emerging trends or noteworthy events.

"He described the aircraft type as 'an attack jet' and said it 'was called White Swan-TU160, the largest military aircraft,'" further said the CBP report.

Could he offer Russian hypersonic sauce? 

According to U.S. defense experts, a person employed in a defense industrial facility like Tuplov might have access to a variety of data about defense industrial production, TU-160 bomber specs, production methods, dependencies, and limits.

The engineer could potentially offer crucial knowledge regarding modifying the White Swan to fire hypersonic missiles, a development that could revolutionize military technology

“Would a site manager know if they modified the remodeled bombers to shoot hypersonic missiles? He might. And that would be a really big deal, if the White Swan was retrofitted to fire hypersonic missiles," a U.S. intelligence official told Yahoo News.

"They are fast and launched from much farther away,” the official explained. “We don’t have anything that can defend against hypersonic missiles — meaning, Patriot systems and all the rest of what we are supplying Ukraine, it’s useless.”

However, it is unusual for an asylum seeker to have his name and extensive details, including his employment history, released in an unclassified CBP report.

If the information is confirmed to be true and the individual is deemed credible, he will be handed over to the FBI.

Although the man's offer of military secrets may contribute to discussions over whether or not to give asylum, the U.S. government is anticipated to make the final judgment on the man's asylum request.

The instance of this Russian engineer wasn't particularly unusual, according to retired senior clandestine services officer Daniel Hoffman of the CIA.

"The guy's here so he'll be processed, he'll go through our system, and they'll talk to him and hear about what he used to do, and that's it, it's pretty simple," Hoffman told Yahoo News.

"This kind of thing happens all the time."

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