Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich) just dropped a couple of very alarming tales during a hearing about counterfeit parts making their way into brand new U.S. military weapons.
Earlier this year, Boeing and the Navy found that the ice detection system on a brand new P-8 Poseidon was defective. The ice detection system is a critical piece of hardware designed to prevent tragedies by alerting pilots to the presence of ice on an aircraft’s control surfaces. Where did this defective part come from? China. A whole batch of a key piece of the ice detection hardware that was sent to the P-8 production line turned out to be used and worn out parts that were badly refurbished and sold to P-8 subcontractor BAE Systems as a new part, according to Levin. Boeing and BAE first became aware of the problem in 2009, he added.
The fake P-8 parts are just one of many examples of how counterfeit parts — often made from 1980s and 1990s-vintage junk computer parts that are sanded down and remarked in China and then sold back to the U.S. as brand new computer chips for advanced weapons systems. One witness at the hearing just described growing counterfiet semiconductors seeping into critical weapons systems as “ticking time bombs.”
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the price of giving up on manufacturing in the US.
the issue isn’t one of manufacturing in the USA or not. The likelyhood of BAE systems manufacturing outside the USA or Mainland Europe is pretty remote.
If manufacturers only purchased from authorized distributors, this counterfeit issue would be far less common. What I’ve seen happen is that when inventory levels are low through the authorized distribution channels, purchasers start looking to Asian IC brokers. That’s where the leak for counterfeit parts is.
@Bob: Nice straw man you have there. You think no American has ever tried to pass off counterfeit goods as genuine? It’s only those other "dirty" countries where someone would try cheat another human being, amirite?
Anyway, it’s irrelevant because counterfeit parts got into the aircraft not through poor manufacturing, but through poor supply channels. The article says that BAE Systems (a British company) was the contractor that didn’t bother to verify that the parts it was getting from its suppliers were genuine, or even worked properly.
I could be cynical and speculate that someone at BAE Systems just ordered the parts off of eBay while charging the United States government full price. But I’ll try to restrain myself.
I don’t think people should jump down Bob’s throat. Read the article again where it says: “.. Where did this defective part come from? China. ”
Obviously the author of the article wants you to jump to the same conclusion Bob did.
I want to know why testing didn’t catch this before it was ever RFI’d? We’re installing avionics on birds carrying our soldiers and we don’t know with great certainty that the systems they will use in flight are known good?
I had this happen to me while I was a manufacturing engineer at an aerospace company. We were having lots of failures on some assemblies. It turned out to be an op-amp, that wasn’t really an op-amp. Our “government authorized” parts broker had bought some counterfeit parts on the gray market.
Since it was for a weapons system, the FBI got involved. I got to talk with them for a little bit, told them where we got the parts, and up the supply chain they went. That was about 10 years ago, this type of thing should have been fixed by now.