Navy engineer indicted over stealing design secrets of new US aircratft carrier

USS Gerald R. Ford
USS Gerald R. Ford

Navy civilian engineer has been indicted on charges he tried to steal schematics of an aircraft carrier under construction and have them sent to Egypt.

Federal prosecutors said Mostafa Ahmed Awwad, 35, of Yorktown, Va., was arrested Friday on two counts of attempted exportation of defense articles and technical data.

Prosecutors said Awwad tried to steal technical data in the designs of the USS Gerald R. Ford in late October. Awwad provided computer drawings downloaded from the Navy to an undercover FBI agent posing as an Egyptian intelligence officer.

The Ford is the lead ship in a new class of carriers. It is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in 2016.

According to an FBI affidavit, Awwad began working for Navy last February in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s nuclear engineering and planning department.

An undercover agent speaking in Arabic contacted Awwad in September and the pair met the next day at a park in Hampton. At the meeting, Awwad asserted that was his intention to use his position of trust with the Navy to obtain military technology for use by the Egyptian government.

The pair also met in October at a hotel where Awwad described a plan to circumvent Navy computer security by installing software enabling him to copy documents without tripping a security alert, the affidavit said.

The undercover agent was given aircraft carrier drawings marked with warnings that foreign distribution could result in criminal prosecution. Awwad indicated he understood the computer drawings would be used in Egypt. He agreed to provide the agent with passport photos to produce a fake Egyptian passport so Awwad could travel without alerting U.S. government officials.

Mostafa Ahmed Awwad
Mostafa Ahmed Awwad 35, of Yorktown, Va., a civilian with the U.S. Navy, leaves the federal courthouse in Norfolk, Va. on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 after he was arrested on charges he tried to steal schematics for a new class of aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford. STEVE EARLEY/THE (NORFOLK) VIRGINIAN-PILOT VIA AP

Awwad also asked for $1,500 to buy a tiny camera to enable him to photograph restricted material around the shipyard, the affidavit said.

On Oct. 23, Awwad retrieved $3,000 in cash from a pre-arranged drop site along a secluded hiking trail and left behind a container with an external hard drive and two passport photos. The FBI later collected the container.

Awwad was observed at his Navy office on Nov. 28 holding what appeared to be aircraft carrier design schematics, which he placed on the floor and photographed, the affidavit said.

Awwad is scheduled for a detention hearing on Dec. 10 in federal court in Norfolk.

The charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each count upon conviction.