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US engineer arrested for allegedly transferring missile tracking tech

Members of the 576th Flight Test Squadron monitor an operational test launch of an unarmed Minuteman III missile, 27 March 2015, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California (not related to US Justice Department investigation). Photo: US Air Force/Michael Peterson

A former engineer has been arrested in the United States for allegedly stealing nuclear, ballistic, and hypersonic missile tracking technology.

A former engineer has been arrested in the United States for allegedly stealing nuclear, ballistic, and hypersonic missile tracking technology.

Former Southern Californian engineer Chenguang Gong, 57, a native of China who became a US citizen in 2011, was arrested on federal charges regarding theft of trade secrets involving trade secret technologies developed for use by the United States government, according to a US Justice Department statement on 7 February.

Gong allegedly transferred more than 3,600 files from a Los Angeles-area research and development company to personal storage devices during his employment as an application-specific integrated circuit design manager from March to April last year, according to court documents.


During his employment, Gong, who worked on infrared sensors, also allegedly sought acceptance into talent programs administered by the People’s Republic of China government between 2014 to 2022.

Gong also travelled to China several times purportedly to seek talent program funding, and allegedly said he could “do something” to contribute to China’s “high-end military integrated circuits.”

The files Gong allegedly transferred include blueprints for sophisticated infrared sensors designed for use in space-based systems to detect nuclear missile launches and track ballistic and hypersonic missiles, as well as blueprints for sensors designed to enable US military aircraft to detect incoming heat-seeking missiles and take countermeasures, including by jamming the missiles’ infrared tracking ability, according to the US Department of Justice.

“We will do everything to protect our nation’s security, including from foreign threats,” according to United States Attorney Martin Estrada.

“Mr. Gong, who had previously sought to provide the People’s Republic of China with information to aid its military, stole sensitive and confidential information related to detecting nuclear missile launches and tracking ballistic and hypersonic missiles.

“We know that foreign actors, including the PRC, are actively seeking to steal our technology, but we will remain vigilant against this threat by safeguarding the innovations of American businesses and researchers.”

Gong allegedly continued transferring more than 1,800 proprietary and trade secret files after had accepted a job at the company’s main competitor on 5 April.

The export-controlled files included development and design for a readout integrated circuit for space-based systems to detect missiles and a readout integrated circuit for aircraft to track incoming threats in low visibility environments.

The FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office is investigating the matter, with assistance from FBI’s San Francisco Field Office and the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California. The charge of theft of trade secrets carries a statutory maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison.

A criminal complaint is merely an allegation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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