“Ghost Fleet” portrays Beijing paralyzing the U.S. military by inserting malware into chips manufactured in China for use in American warships and planes. When the Chinese activate the chips to cripple U.S. fighters, planes from the 1970s are redeployed because they don’t have Chinese chips.
Just as the Pentagon turned to Detroit to build armaments for World War II, in the novel Silicon Valley returns to its defense-industry roots to win the cyberwar. Among the characters is a high-tech billionaire who launches himself into orbit to reclaim the international space station after it is seized by Russians and used by the Chinese to destroy U.S. satellites. The hacking group Anonymous helps by defeating a Chinese cyberattack on the U.S. electrical grid.
The novel includes almost 400 endnotes with citations showing even the most far-fetched technologies in the book are based on reality. These include drone fighter jets more lethal than piloted fighters, undersea drones to protect warships, electromagnetic rail guns that seem to defy physics, and software transmitted through ink tattoos. One of the citations is to a Brookings Institution study on risks to the Pentagon from Chinese-made chips embedded in American operating systems for carriers, submarines, bombers and fighters.