FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

New Navy Fighters Flunk Weapons Tests

by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

This will provide scant comfort to Iraqis, who are even now refamiliarizing themselves with the quickest route to the nearest Baghdad bomb shelter, but a recently leaked memo from Pentagon’s top weapons inspector warns that the Navy is deploying for battle “an increasing number” of combat systems that may be seriously flawed.

Thomas Christie, director of operational testing and evaluation for the Department of Defense, sent his memo to Gordon England, the Secretary of the Navy last month. The memo was leaked to the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington-based Pentagon watchdog group.

“I am concerned about an apparent trend by the Navy to deploy an increasing number of combat systems into harm’s way that have not demonstrated acceptable performance,” wrote Christie. “I strongly recommend that you adopt a policy of deploying new deploying new combat systems after they have demonstrated appropriate performance during adequate operational test and evaluation.”

Christie cited the weapons systems used by the Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter as being the most suspect. The Super Hornets are the Navy’s top fighter aircraft in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. In an all-out war against Iraq, the Super Hornets, based on the US aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, are expected to lead the Navy’s air campaign against Iraq.

When the big new weapons systems fail their testing, instead of asking the contractors to fix the problem, the Navy, ever anxious to have the newest and latest hardware, simply “dumbs down” the test. It’s like lowering entrance examines for high-yield explosives. Christie’s memo says this happened with two classified weapons systems for the Super Hornet, one is unnamed and the other is a shared reconnaissance model called SHARP, which is supposed to allow pilots to see images up to 50 miles away at altitudes of 50,000 feet in all kinds of weather.

Christie also warned that the Super Hornet’s infrared missile targeting system, known as ATFLIR, failed to measure up to expectations during a round of operational testing in April. The AFLIR uses a small visible light camera to detect, classify and track both air-to-air and air-to-surface targets. In the April test of laser-guided bombs, however, the AFLIR system only worked two out of seven times.

An even more widespread problem is likely to be encountered if the Navy proceeds with plans to install the Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) on the USS Stennis aircraft carrier. The JSOW is a guidance system for the Navy’s new generation of “smart bombs” and is slated to be used not only on the Super Hornet, but also on the F-16 fighter and B-52 and B-2 bombers. Christie says that the JSOW has yet to demonstrate “acceptable performance” in operational testing.

All of this brings back memories of the first Gulf War, when the Pentagon hailed its new technological prowess, featuring its integrated arsenal of AWACS, Stealth fighters and bombers and smart bombs. Well, it turned out that these new systems didn’t turn out to be very efficient or very smart. The stealth systems didn’t work in cold weather or heavy winds. The smart bombs hardly lived up to their advanced billing or the daily Pentagon videos of missiles dropping into Iraqi smokestacks. In fact, post-war bombing assessments showed that the smart bombs hit their targets only about 30 percent of the time. Needless to say, we didn’t get to watch Schwartzkoft explain with a telestrator what went wrong when the smart bombs missed their targets and hit neighborhoods filled with Iraqi women and children.

In the end, even the Pentagon figured out that the war couldn’t be fought with the smart bombs and resorted to old-fashioned carpet bombing with B-52s. More than 90 percent of the bombs dropped on Iraq were conventional ordinance. Similarly, the sleek and expensive new fighter planes gave way to old war-horses, such as the A-10, which most independent defense analysts credit with destroying the entrenched Iraqi tank divisions in Kuwait and southern Iraq.

The mad rush to get these unproven systems operational before the bombing of Baghdad gets under way has a simple explanation. The Pentagon always wants new and more expensive war toys and its contractors make sure that congress appropriates the money to make that desire a reality. The Super Hornet is built by Boeing. The Navy has already ordered 222 of these fighters, at a price tag of $57 million per copy. And it wants to buy 300 more. There’s 29 billion reasons to move as quickly as possible-test scores be damned.

The Pentagon, of course, probably views Iraq as the ultimate testing ground for its menu of new bombing systems. Given Iraq’s decimated air-defense system and inept air force, there’s little risk of US planes being taken down through the failure of any of these systems. And, given the tight constrictions on press coverage that have been in place since the first Gulf War, there’s also little chance that the flaws in these multi-billion dollar systems will come to light during the impending war.

But when one of these missiles misses its target and slams into a house or marketplace because of a glitch in the new Boeing war technology, it means that more innocent Iraqi’s will die, unwitting victims of the “operation testing” of a technology which will have only proven its capacity to kill without discrimination.

 

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
Dave Lindorff
Right a Terrible Wrong: Why Obama Should Reverse Himself and Pardon Leonard Peltier
Laura Carlsen
Bringing Mexico to Its Knees Will Not “Make America Great Again”
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey: the Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
Conn Hallinan
Is Europe Heading for a “Lexit”?
Stephen Cooper
Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck
Binoy Kampmark
Scoundrels of Patriotism: The Freeing of Chelsea Manning
Ramzy Baroud
The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel
Josh Hoxie
Why Health Care Repeal is a Stealth Tax Break for Millionaires
Kim C. Domenico
It’s High Time for a Politics of Desire
Shamus Cooke
Inauguration Day and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
More and More Lousy
David Swanson
Samantha Power Can See Russia from Her Padded Cell
Kevin Carson
Right to Work and the Apartheid State
Malaika H. Kambon
Resisting the Lynching of Haitian Liberty!
January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Ajamu Baraka
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama
David Underhill
Trumpology With a Twist
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail