A Russian military engineer who worked on one of Russia’s most sophisticated bombers arrived at the US Southwest border in an armored SUV with his family, seeking asylum in exchange for offering to disclose some of Russia’s top military secrets.
According to an unclassified Customs and Border Protection (CBP) report obtained by Yahoo News, the man claimed he had participated in anti-Putin protests supporting imprisoned Russian dissident Alexei Navalny and feared persecution. He also said he had valuable information wanted by the US government.
Officials involved with his case say the Russian man revealed that he worked as a civil engineer from 2018 to 2021 in making a type of Russian military airplane at the Tupolev aircraft production facility in the city of Kazan in west-central Russia. He described the aircraft type as an “attack jet,” called the White Swan-TU160. According to defense officials, the TU-160 White Swan, also known as “Blackjack,” is the most advanced strategic bomber in the Russian fleet. Recently, reports have circulated that the aircraft had a major overhaul that sought to upgrade key components of the TU-160.
According to the CBP, after the man’s claim was found credible, he was passed to the FBI for further questioning. The engineer is now believed to be residing in the United States and is likely continuing to be questioned about the Blackjack production, new upgrades to the aircraft, and questions relating to the facility operations where the plane is manufactured.
A senior military intelligence official speaking to Yahoo News said that information on this particular aircraft would be valuable, especially with the ongoing lobbying of allies to send military equipment to Ukraine. Details on whether the White Swan was retrofitted to fire hypersonic missiles would be a significant discovery. The big question is, “Did they retrofit it for hypersonic missiles?”
Russian President Vladimir Putin in a White Swan-TU160
Despite the case’s significance, some officials raised concerns about the man’s safety, resulting in Yahoo News withholding his name and details of where he arrived and applied for asylum.