China-made counterfeit parts found in US military aircraft: Senate

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The US Senate Armed Services Committee has issued a report stating that China is a major source of counterfeit electronic components found on aircraft such as the L-3 Communications/Alenia C-27J, Lockheed Martin C-130J and Boeing P-8A.

The committee's investigation discovered 1,800 cases of counterfeit parts, with the total number of individual parts involved exceeding 1 million, the Senate Armed Services committee said in a statement.

"Our report outlines how this flood of counterfeit parts, overwhelmingly from China, threatens national security, the safety of our troops and American jobs," says committee chairman senator Carl Levin.

"It underscores China's failure to police the blatant market in counterfeit parts - a failure China should rectify."

The 112 page report details how counterfeit parts made their way into several high profile programmes.

In November 2010, cockpit display units produced by L-3 Display Systems were found to contain a counterfeit memory chip. At the time of the discovery, over 500 displays had been installed in types such as the C-27J, C-130J, C-17 and CH-46 helicopter.

L-3 had purchased the chips from a distributor in California, which had in turn bought them from a Shenzhen company called Hong Dark Electronic Trade.

Aside from the suspect memory chips, the report claims that L-3 Communications bought "tens of thousands" of Hong Dark's parts in 2009 and 2010.

As for the P-8A, on 17 August 2011, Boeing informed the navy that an ice detection module aboard the aircraft had "a reworked part that should not have been put on the airplane originally and should be replaced immediately."

BAE Systems, which made the module, informed Boeing of the suspect parts in January 2010 - over 18 months before Boeing informed the US Navy about the issue.

BAE had purchased the parts from a California firm called Tandex Test Labs, which had not tested the parts. Tandex had obtained the parts from a Florida distributor, which had in turn bought the parts from an affiliate of Shenzhen-based firm A Access Electronics.

The report cites several such examples. One theme is the failure of contractors to notify their military customers about the counterfeit parts in a timely fashion. It noted that counterfeit parts change hands many times before being purchased by contractors and that "contractors may know little about the ultimate source of the electronic parts they purchase."

The report called for more exhaustive testing processes for parts and for more timely reporting of counterfeit part issues when they emerge.

A committee statement added that the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act has provisions that should "address weaknesses in the supply chain" identified by the investigation.