Simulating relatively recent military aircraft has always seen developers walk a fine line between seeking to provide the highest fidelity and most accurate experience that consumers like ourselves want to have while also maintaining enough of a distance between the cutting edge so as not to tread into the realm of classified materials. One Eagle Dynamics employee, appears to have crossed the line, and in so doing has been arrested and is up for trial in the United States. Here’s a short overview of what we know, what Eagle Dynamics has said, and if or how this affects DCS World and some of our favourite aircraft currently available or under development.
The short of it
Oleg Mikhaylovich Tishchenko, an Eagle Dynamics employee has been arrested and is scheduled to go on trial on August 19 in Salt Lake City on charges of conspiring against the United States, smuggling, and violating the Arms Export Control Act. Or so says The Standard Examiner in an article that has been making the rounds of the DCS World and flight sim communities.
The full details are available at the link, however, the site doesn’t follow GDPR rules and is unavailable in parts of Europe so I will try and summarize.
The story begins in June 2011 when Tishchenko posted on the DCS World forums (in a post that has now been deleted) asking for help buying some F-16 avionics manuals on sale on eBay. He was unable to purchase directly due to “international restrictions” and a member of the forum based in Texas offered to help. In 2016 he was once again asking for F-16 and A-10 manuals in what was a chat with an undercover Homeland Security agent.
Later, it was learned that he had also been auctioning materials to Cyprus, Japan, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany and Taiwan through eBay.
It was also revealed that he was looking for flight and avionics information related to the F-22 and F-35 aircraft.
The story from the Standard Examiner indicates that charges were also made against the DCS World forum user from Texas and that those have subsequently been dropped.
Tishchenko was confirmed as an employee of Eagle Dynamics and after the news hit late yesterday we were told to hold on for an official statement from Eagle Dynamics on the matter. It is now available:
Lausanne, 14 May 2019.
The Eagle Dynamics group, headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, confirms that one of its employees has been jailed in the State of Utah (USA) on charges of seeking to procure, export and sell restricted US fighter jet manuals, in particular the F-16.
Eagle Dynamics confirms that it was not involved in any way in the actions of its employee who acted in a purely private context and for his own personal interests.
The Company develops all of its DCS aircraft game modules exclusively on the basis of publicly available information and has never used nor tried to obtain any classified information.
The Company launched an internal investigation into the actions of its employee, and found nothing in the company’s records that relates to the facts that are being held against him. The investigation confirmed in particular that no company resources were used and that no export restricted documents were obtained or stored within the company’s systems. Furthermore, the Company confirms that the employee was not involved in any of the work or research pertaining to the development of the Company’s upcoming F-16 module.
The development of the F-16 and other modules currently in the pipeline will continue in order to further enhance the simulation experience of DCS World. These events will not affect Eagle Dynamics’ commitment to its users and faithful community.
Senior Producer, Eagle Dynamics SA
Commentary: Does this affect DCS World?
Since the news has hit, speculation has been rife and all kinds of different ideas and theories have been put out there. My opinion is this: I’m not a lawyer and I’m so far removed from the process that speculating on the case for and against would be irresponsible on my part. We don’t have enough facts to be able to fully judge the situation and that will be left to the court in Salt Lake City to determine if the charges will stick or not.
Beyond that, however, I feel like a little speculation is fair game and the situation is certainly an embarrassing moment for Eagle Dynamics. Maintaining good relations with their industry partners, international governments, and the user base is key for a company operating in a niche like this.
My sense at this point is that the damage appears to be fairly minimal. The employee appears to have been acting on his own accord and we’ve learned over the years that Matt Wagner as Senior Producer regularly goes through great pains to make sure that Eagle Dynamics and DCS World use only public information when putting together modules. Indeed, Mr. Wagner is well suited to this role as his apparent former occupation saw him working as a CIA analyst and his understanding of how to navigate those considerations is likely unparalleled.
According to the press release, Eagle Dynamics continues to work on their DCS: F-16 and I get the sense that the search for F-16 manuals seems to have had little or no effect on the development of this module. In the past, Eagle Dynamics has made no such requests for materials for the F/A-18C and they apparently worked with Boeing to facilitate the appropriate level of information making its way into sim. I think it only reasonable to expect that a similar arrangement with Lockheed-Martin and the F-16 exists.
It may also be likely that this whole affair had more to do with seeking out materials relating to the F-22 and F-35 that may have caused the greater issue. That and the apparent selling of materials to additional third parties. This is also illustrative of why there are no serious efforts to try and recreate high fidelity versions of those aircraft in the sim right now. Similarly, many Russian aircraft are also off limits to what is probably an even greater extent and why there are no serious efforts to do high fidelity versions of the Su-27 or MiG-29 (or derivatives).
We’ll have to wait and see if there are long term effects from this. At the moment there appear to be few if any aside from the arrested employee who will face a courtroom in August.