Noshir Gowadia, 66, made profits of at least USD$110,000 (£68,000) by selling classified engine technology that China needed for its design of a stealth cruise missile that could evade infra-red detection, the court heard.
“He broke his oath of loyalty to this country,” said Judge Susan Oki Mollway passing sentence after a hearing in Honolulu, Hawaii, “He was found guilty of marketing valuable technology to foreign countries for personal gain.” Gowadia, an engineer with the Northrop Grumman Corporation between 1968-88 who worked on the B-2 design, made repeated trips to China between 2003 and 2005 providing “defence services” to China’s cruise missile programme as a freelance consultant.
The prosecution had called on the judge to impose a life sentence on Gowadia who used the proceeds of the sales to fund a luxury lifestyle on Hawaii where he lived in a multi-million dollar home overlooking the ocean on Maui.
Defence lawyers for Gowadia, an Indian-born engineer who worked on the engine design for the B-2 bomber, had argued that he had sold only unclassified technology.
However after a 40-day trial, he was convicted on 14 charges including communicating national defence information to aid a foreign nation, violating the arms export control act and several counts of money-laundering and tax fraud.
“He provided some of our country’s most sensitive weapons-related designs to the Chinese government for money,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security David Kris said in a statement after the trial.
Earlier this month China unveiled its first ever stealth fighter, the Chengdu J20, which is said to have been based on technology gleaned partly from parts of a US F-117 stealth fighter shot down over Serbia in 1999 during the Kosovo conflict.
China, who has promised a “peaceful rise”, is currently investing heavily in upgrading its armed forces, including stealth technology, aircraft carriers and long-range missiles, raising concerns in Washington and the Asia-Pacific region.
“We’re a little disappointed (the judge) didn’t give him a life sentence, that’s the sentence that would’ve sent the best message,” said assistant US attorney Ken Sorenson said after the hearing, “But 32 years is stiff and in many ways an appropriate sentence for him.” His son, Ashton Gowadia said after the sentence that his father intended to appeal against the verdict.