Dangerous parts penetrate the Pentagon
Military aircraft may represent the ultimate in design and technology – complex machines operating in environments where performance at the limit of physics under enemy fire is pre-requisite.
Despite their awesome might and position at the centre of the world’s most secure organisations, military aircraft appear to be as susceptible to counterfeit parts as their automotive cousins.
In 2011 suspected counterfeit parts were found on US military aircraft deployed in Afghanistan. Seven aircraft types, including the venerable Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport plane and C-17 Globemaster (both also employed by the RAAF), were found to have suspect electronic parts.
Initiated by the US Government to investigate the growing issue of counterfeit parts in military hardware, a year-long Senate Armed Services Committee created a database of 1800 cases of counterfeiting, with over a million parts in question.
Committee Chairman Carl Levin told Bloomberg the results of the investigation were serious.
“There is a flood of counterfeits,” he said. “It is putting our military men at risk and costing us a fortune.”
The investigation found evidence of counterfeit parts on everything from rifles to fighter jets. Even NASA space craft have been found with counterfeit components.
One of the most damning and common issues was fake electronic chips used in cockpit displays that provide pilots with diagnostic data, including engine status, fuel usage, location and warning messages.
Of the eight conclusions the committee reached in its final report in 2012 the fourth goes to the heart of what the Genuine is Best campaign prioritises – user safety.
“CONCLUSION 4: The use of counterfeit electronic parts in defense systems can compromise performance and reliability, risk national security, and endanger the safety of military personnel.”
“The investigation uncovered dozens of examples of suspect counterfeit electronic parts in critical military systems, including on thermal weapons sights delivered to the Army, on mission computers for the Missile Defense Agency’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile, and on a large number of military airplanes. The potential impact of suspect parts on the performance and reliability of defense systems is significant. For example, according to MDA, if suspect counterfeit devices installed on the THAAD mission computers had failed, the THAAD missile itself would likely have failed…
Senator John McCain, the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, told Bloomberg “the origin of the counterfeits is cloaked by passing them through a chain of three or four sham companies”.
Whether it’s military equipment or civilian vehicles, Genuine is Best.