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:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail