Maui man had been up for DOD contract
A former Northrop Corp. engineer charged with selling secrets about how the B-2 bomber eludes heat-seeking missiles was being considered for a subcontractor job on a Department of Defense contract to design a similar system for commercial aircraft.
Maui resident Noshir S. Gowadia designed the B-2's propulsion system to make it difficult to track through infrared detection. He was arrested and charged Tuesday with passing classified information about the system to foreign countries.
Federal investigators said Gowadia admitted passing the classified information to eight foreign countries.
Purdue University recently won a $1.1 million Defense Department contract to design a similar system for commercial aircraft but had not started work on it, said Jeanne Norberg, a Purdue spokeswoman.
The school had been talking to Gowadia about being a potential subcontractor on the project, she said.
Norberg said Gowadia's involvement in the Defense Department contract was put on hold following his arrest.
Gowadia taught a course at the university's School of Aeronautics and Astronautics in the spring, said Marc Williams, the associate head of the school. He said the course, Fundamentals of Aircraft Survivability, was for seniors and graduate students. Twelve students were in the class.
It was an adaptation of a short course Gowadia had taught at Georgia Tech, Norberg said. Purdue did not pay him to teach the course, but did reimburse him for his transportation and hotel, she said.
Norberg said the faculty at the school got to know Gowadia in 2003, when he went to Purdue to test an advanced nozzle design, used in stealth technology, in one of the university's laboratories.
How B-2 works is known; how to build it is secret
Part of what allows the B-2 stealth bomber to avoid detection is its unique engine system, which hides the heat coming from the jet exhaust.
The technology also protects the plane from heat-seeking missiles.
That "infrared technology" is what Noshir Gowadia helped develop at the Northrop Corp. while working on the engine for the B-2 bomber and what he is accused of selling to foreigners.
The basic theory behind the stealth bomber's propulsion system is public knowledge. But the specifics of its design, construction and materials are still classified and, if revealed, could show other militaries how to detect the bomber, defense analysts said.
"Infrared detection technology is pretty widespread," said Philip Coyle, a senior advisor for the Center for Defense Information and a former assistant secretary of defense. "But if it's stealth that he gave away, that indeed could be highly secret."
The B-2's engines are above the wing and are insulated so that heat will not seep through the hull, said John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, a private defense policy group. A titanium plate prevents heat from the engine exhaust from damaging the plane, and surrounding cold air is mixed with the hot exhaust to further dilute the heat generated by the bomber.
Details beyond that basic description are classified, Pike said. "How you make it work, what sort of materials you use, how they have to be fabricated -- all of that is extremely classified."
Information on how to make a stealth engine could also be used to detect weaknesses in the B-2 bomber's technology, Pike added.
Pike and Coyle said it is difficult to know exactly what information Gowadia allegedly sold to foreigners, and how serious the alleged security breach is, because the government is not revealing many details.