Why a principal designer of the Stealth Bomber is in a supermax prison

Updated onFeb 22, 2024 5:56 AM PST
Reviewed byTessa Robinson
3 minute read
stealth bomber


There are a lot of infamous names sitting in the escape-proof U.S. Penitentiary at ADX Florence – also known as “The Alcatraz of the Rockies.” Here’s another.

There are a lot of infamous names sitting in the escape-proof U.S. Penitentiary at ADX Florence – also known as “The Alcatraz of the Rockies.” Terry Nichols, one of the Oklahoma City bombers, is there. So was Robert Hanssen, one of the most damaging spies in American history, before his death on June 5, 2023. The Unabomber spent time there, the Shoe Bomber, one of the Boston Marathon Bombers… you get it. These people are the worst.

The man

Considering the company he’s in, it’s no wonder very few people know the name Noshir Gowadia, either in or out of the joint. Gowadia was one of the chief designers of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. He is not only notable for designing the propulsion system, and tech that helps protect the B-2 from heat-seeking missiles; he’s also notable for giving that information to China, Israel, and others.

Noshir Sheriarji Gowadia was born in India but came to the United States as a young man. He became a citizen and started working for Northrop in 1968. For 20 years, he worked for the company, one of America’s top defense contractors. There, he worked on developing low-observable technology for aircraft, commonly called “stealth.”

Noshir Gowadia, Wikimedia Commons

With a Top Secret clearance, Gowadia was trusted to create this new technology, a critical part of the U.S. Air Force’s new bomber, the B-2 Spirit. In the years he worked there, the technology he helped develop was applied to Tacit Blue, a secret stealth technology demonstrator.

As the development of Northrop’s stealth technology continued, Northrop became Northrop-Grumman. Gowadia continued working on various stealth aspects of the B-2’s development, including its secret rear section, with specially-designed suppressed engine exhaust ports.

From patriotic to shady to illegal

Although he worked on much of the aircraft, including its propulsion system and parts of its stealth tech and especially the parts that keep heat-seeking missiles from tracking it, Gowadia eventually left Northrop-Grumman to start his own technology consulting business. This is where his efforts go from patriotic to shady and then to downright illegal.

N.S. Gowadia, Inc. was founded in 1999 so its founder could lend his skillset to the highest bidder and take home all the money instead of working for a salary. Nothing could be more American than that. Almost immediately, however, he began teaching classes in foreign countries to foreigners for money, using secret information he picked up from his time at Los Alamos labs.

In 2002, he faxed a Top Secret Air Force document detailing infrared technology to at least three foreign countries. He sent China a cruise missile design and detailed its effectiveness against American air-to-air missiles, a charge he argued was based on unclassified information.

B-2 first flight (U.S. Air Force)

Right away, things looked bad for Gowadia. His company only claimed $750,000 in gross receipts during the time period in question, while Gowadia was purchasing land on the Hawaiian island of Maui and building an almost 7,000-square-foot mansion on it – later valued at $1.64 million.

The arrest

After searching his home in 2005, authorities arrested Gowadia on more than a dozen espionage charges, espionage-related charges, tax evasion, and money laundering. He was held without bail while awaiting trial, which came five years later. After deliberating for more than five days, the jury came back with a guilty verdict and Gowadia was sentenced to 32 years in jail.

It’s not known just how damaging Gowadia's spying was, but authorities know he handed out secrets to Germany, Israel, and China, and perhaps more – all under the guise of establishing his technology credentials and drumming up business.


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