New Navy Fighters Flunk Weapons Tests


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.

November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving
Joseph Grosso
The Enduring Tragedy: Guatemala’s Bloody Farce
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Imperial Myths: the Enduring Lie of the US’s Origin
Ralph Nader
The Joys of Solitude: a Thanksgiving!

Joseph G. Ramsey
Something to be Thankful For: Struggles, Seeds…and Surprises
Dan Glazebrook
Turkey Shoot: the Rage of the Impotent in Syria
Andrew Stewart
The Odious President Wilson
Colin Todhunter
Corporate Parasites And Economic Plunder: We Need A Genuine Green Revolution
Rajesh Makwana
Ten Billion Reasons to Demand System Change
Joyce Nelson
Turkey Moved the Border!
Richard Baum
Hillary Clinton’s Meager Proposal to Help Holders of Student Debt
Sam Husseini
A Thanksgiving Day Prayer
November 25, 2015
Jeff Taylor
Bob Dylan and Christian Zionism
Dana E. Abizaid
Provoking Russia
Oliver Tickell
Syria’s Cauldron of Fire: a Downed Russian Jet and the Battle of Two Pipelines
Patrick Cockburn
Trigger Happy: Will Turkey’s Downing of Russian Jet Backfire on NATO?
Robert Fisk
The Soothsayers of Eternal War
Russell Mokhiber
The Coming Boycott of Nike
Ted Rall
Like Father Like Son: George W. Bush Was Bad, His Father May Have Been Worse
Matt Peppe
Bad Policy, Bad Ethics: U.S. Military Bases Abroad
Martha Rosenberg
Pfizer Too Big (and Slippery) to Fail
Yorgos Mitralias
Bernie Sanders, Mr. Voutsis and the Truth Commission on Greek Public Debt
Jorge Vilches
Too Big for Fed: Have Central Banks Lost Control?
Sam Husseini
Why Trump is Wrong About Waterboarding — It’s Probably Not What You Think
Binoy Kampmark
The Perils of Certainty: Obama and the Assad Regime
Roger Annis
State of Emergency in Crimea
Soud Sharabani
ISIS in Lebanon: An Interview with Andre Vltchek
Thomas Knapp
NATO: This Deal is a Turkey
November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”