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Counterfeit electronics and military hardware risks American lives

It would be reasonable to expect the United States military contractors building the aircraft our military uses to defend the nation to be absolutely sure electronics they use in the aircraft are legitimate and don't suffer from any security issues. However, a Senate report indicates that this not always the case. The Senate Armed Services Committee issued a report documenting the year-long investigation launched by Democratic Chairman Carl Levin and ranking Republican John McCain into counterfeit Chinese electronics in military aircraft.
The report spans 112 pages shows that 1,800 cases of bogus counterfeit parts were discovered during the investigation. The counterfeit Chinese parts were discovered in the Air Force's largest cargo plane, helicopters used by special ops soldiers, and Navy surveillance aircraft. 
Levin said, "[The report] outlines how this flood of counterfeit parts, overwhelmingly from China, threatens national security, the safety of our troops and American jobs."
“It underscores China’s failure to police the blatant market in counterfeit parts — a failure China should rectify,” he continued.
The Senate report also notes that the Chinese government wouldn't issue visas to Senate committee staff that wanted to travel to Asia as part of the investigation. Defense News reports that one Chinese embassy official said the issue was sensitive and a negative report could damage relations between the United States and China.
While the source of the counterfeit electronics was overwhelmingly determined to be China, the report does say that contractors and other authorities in the United States are partly to blame for failing to detect fake parts and routinely failing to report suspected counterfeit goods.
Among the fake and counterfeit parts the investigation discovered were Electromagnetic Interference Filters that were used in night missions and in the operation of military arms such as the Hellfire missile used on certain Navy helicopters. Counterfeit memory chips were also found in the display systems used by the C-17 Globemaster III and the C-130J military cargo aircraft. Additional counterfeit parts were discovered in refurbished ice detection modules on the Navy P-8A Poseidon used for anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare by the Navy.
The SAS first mentioned the problem of counterfeit electronics and military hardware last year.

Source: Defense News

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Not off the shelf components
By bupkus on 5/23/2012 10:18:37 AM , Rating: 2
Since these parts are probably not generic to any consumer or commercial applications it makes me curious how the Chinese got the specifications to build them. It would seem this alone represents a significant security breach.

Then there is a potentially embarrassing question-- did these parts work better than those actually produced by so called legitimate subcontractors or our own defense industries?

RE: Not off the shelf components
By mars2k on 5/23/2012 10:24:16 AM , Rating: 2
Great point. These aren't just cheap cooking utensiles from Walmart. Meanwhile they get better at it.

I wouldn't think higher quality would be the question. Remember the poison pet food fiasco?

RE: Not off the shelf components
By FaaR on 5/23/2012 11:35:01 AM , Rating: 2
RF filters and display controllers aren't exactly James Bond secret agent level technology... Probably not ice detectors either. Almost all electronic components that go into military hardware also have uses in civilian tech somewhere.

RE: Not off the shelf components
By gamerk2 on 5/23/12, Rating: 0
RE: Not off the shelf components
By MrTeal on 5/23/2012 11:49:31 AM , Rating: 2
Things that are specialized are built from other less-specialized components, which are in turn built from pretty generic components. If the defense contractor builds a plane that uses some motor controller from Sub A, Sub A might design and build it using certain transistors. Sub A buys transistors from Manufacturer B and gets them from Distributor C. Distributor C gets them from B's factory in China, but the Chinese factory sends distributor C counterfeits and pockets the real transistors for resale. Up through the chain they go, until the plane is built with counterfeit transistors. Sometimes they fail immediately, bu sometimes they survive just long enough to be put in service and take out other equipment when they do fail.
It's not always so easy to tell the difference.

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone

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