War Thunder players take their tanks seriously. But one player perhaps took things a bit too far.
The player in question, known as Pyrophoric, took to the War Thunder forum on Wednesday night to post an image from a Challenger 2 battle tank Army Equipment Support Publication (AESP) - like a user manual - to try to convince developer Gaijin Entertainment the in-game version isn't authentic to the real-life version.
According to a post by the UK Defence Journal, the image had its "UK Restricted" label crossed out, with an "UNCLASSIFIED" stamp added. Various parts were reportedly fully blacked out.
Here's what the player posted alongside the document and two screenshots of the tank in War Thunder:
"Linking those screenshots with the following edited image from the AESP's which is meant to show the relationship of the various components. The image isn't exactly to scale as its only meant to show the position of components relative to each other but it works for the point I'm trying to make here. The trunnion's sit centrally of the rotor. The trunnions support the rotor in the turret structure and the GCE sub components as previously stated are all mounted to the rotor."
It appears the user who posted the classified image is in the British Army - as the UK Defence Journal points out, Pyrophoric lists their location as Tidworth, a garrison town in south-east Wiltshire, England. Also in Tidworth? The Royal Tank Regiment who operate Challenger 2 tanks.
The images were removed, and a mod for War Thunder called Templar_ stepped in to explain the remarkable situation - that the developer received confirmation from the Ministry of Defence itself that the documents posted were classified.
"We have written confirmation from MoD that this document remains classified," reads the mod post.
"By continuing to disseminate it you are in violation of the Official Secrets Act as stated by the warning on the cover of the document, an offence which can carry up to a 14 year prison sentence if prosecuted. Of this you are already aware, as a service person you have signed a declaration that you understand the act and what actions it compels you to take. Every time you post this you place us (International representatives of Gaijin), especially any UK citizens, in hot water as the warning so helpfully states that unauthorised retention of a protected document is an offence."
The argument over War Thunder's Challenger 2 has been rumbling for over two years, ever since the tank was added to the game in March 2019. The thread that now has the astonished gaze of the internet trained squarely upon it began life in February 2019. Since then it has amassed nearly 8000 replies spread across 319 pages.
Pyrophoric had been active in the thread - hours prior to the post that included the image of the classified document, they posted to explain themselves:
"As I've stated a fair few times now the complexity of the construction is sometimes difficult to see/show with pictures... It is so complex in CR2's case that I don't completely blame Gaijin from getting it incorrect. All I try to do is point out the areas where they are incorrect."
One player in the thread, which is now closed to new comments, asked whether the suggested changes to the tank could be made despite the fact secret documents were used to suggest them.
Community manager Smin1080p stamped out that talk pretty quickly, saying: "There is no valid source material that can be used. Therefore no change will take place.
"We have made it very clear our stance on source material."
Remarkably, this appears to not be the first time this has happened. Before the documents were removed, Smin1080p posted to say "last time such a document was shared that was claimed to be 'unclassified' it was in fact still classified and was confirmed that it should never have been shared".
"We make it very clear that we will not handle any source material unless it is publically available and fully declassified with the rights to prove that."
I imagine Pyrophoric is currently in pretty hot water with their superior.