War Thunder is a free-to-play online war game from Gaijin Entertainment. It is a game committed to accuracy, with a mode that goes all-out on realistic vehicle and weapon physics, and a playerbase that is extremely invested in the minutiae of its vehicle simulations.
The War Thunder forums see many arguments about the accuracy or otherwise of particular hardware, and this weekend saw one about the French Leclerc Main Battle Tank and its variants: which at one stage, got down to the exact speed of rotation of the tank's turret. Player __RED_CROSS__ got rather annoyed with a user saying that the turret's rotation speed was 40 degrees a second, among other things, and so decided to try and win the argument by—under the title 'Sekrit Document'—posting portions of the gunner manual for the Leclerc to prove their point (thanks, UK Defence Journal).
This happened on Sunday morning and, doubtless quite pleased with their work, __RED_CROSS__ popped back into the thread several times during the day, saying things like "It took ~11 seconds for the turret to make a complete turn, so 550 mil/s (31°) is indeed correct not 40°. [Leclerc Serie 2] I was in". They further went on to clarify that they were in the Serie 2.3 model, while other fans in the thread reported the documents and argued over whether they were classified or not.
After several hours the material was removed by the moderators, who are now old hands at this sort of thing, before mod JagdEnte wrote: "Guys its not funnny [sic] to leak classified Documents of modern equipment you put the lives of many on stake who work daily with the Vehicles! Keep in Mind that those documents will be deleted immediately alongside sanctions. Thanks for reading!"
This is far from the first time the War Thunder forums have played host to military secrets: in June this year a player posted classified information about the Challenger 2 tank in order to win an argument about the size of the gap between the main turret structure and hull. On that occasion the UK Ministry of Defence ended up informing Gaijin—in writing—that the manual was in fact classified, and the player in question (who claimed to be a Challenger 2 commander IRL) was warned he risked violating the Official Secrets Act.
In response to this latest incident, and the subsequent arguments about whether the documents are really classified or not, community manager Smin1080p wrote: "Its not for us to clarify what each government / authority allow. Put simply, we will not handle, pass, or allow any form of classified documentation / source and we will follow any legal procedure that follows said documentation. Unless clear authorative approval is posted that the source is not classified, we will treat it like it is and act on it as such with the necessary process as per any legal perimeters or requirements."
The whole farrago is just fascinating. This is all over the most minor of differences between the real tank and the in-game tank's behaviour, and it's clear from the wider thread that there are extremely strong feelings about things like depression angles and traversal rates.
The thread subsequently devolved into an argument about whether the documents were really classified or not, with some users focusing on the stupidity of posting such documents to win an argument about a videogame, while others seemed remarkably blasé about the whole thing. Just another day on the War Thunder forums. As our own Andy Chalk rightly pondered: how many times have War Thunder fans done this?
As ever, while sharing classified documents in the War Thunder forums might get you into trouble IRL, it's no biggie there: our friend __RED_CROSS__ remains in good standing.
War Thunder developer Gaijin sent PC Gamer the following statement: "We use only documents that are non-classified when we work on our game. When a user publishes a classified document at the official forum of War Thunder, we delete it as soon as possible. These sort of player actions do not help our game in any way."