Fake Chinese Components Could Compromise THAAD

The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system is just one of several U.S. military programs that might have been compromised through the inclusion of fake Chinese electronics that were passed off as high grade, the London Telegraph reported on Tuesday (see GSN, Oct. 5).

Investigators for the Senate Armed Services Committee found a total of 1,800 instances in which the U.S. Defense Department had purchased electronic components that could be counterfeit.

The Senate researchers found false components used not only in the THAAD system, but also in Boeing transport planes and helicopters.

The THAAD system was developed to destroy hostile ballistic missiles in their end phase of flight, both inside and outside of the Earth's atmosphere, according to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

In roughly 70 percent of the cases documented by Senate investigators, the counterfeit components were purchased in China, which is also believed to have been the origination point for 20 percent of the other cases in which fake electronics were purchased from Canada and the United Kingdom.

In Chinese shopping districts, "military grade" computer chips are widely hawked, but these microchips are frequently commercial-grade ones that have been altered and repackaged. Military-quality electronics are developed to endure wide fluctuations in humidity and temperature. There are concerns that counterfeit Chinese chips could abruptly cease functioning.

"We cannot tolerate the risk of a ballistic missile interceptor failing to hit its target, a helicopter pilot unable to fire his missiles, or any other mission failure because of a counterfeit part," said the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Analysts contend that issues with counterfeit electronics go back to the Clinton White House, when the Defense Department was directed to purchase "off-the-shelf" components instead of developing its own.

A 2008 Commerce Department probe uncovered close to 7,400 instances of fraudulent components in military systems (Malcolm Moore, London Telegraph, Nov. 8).

November 9, 2011
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The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system is just one of several U.S. military programs that might have been compromised through the inclusion of fake Chinese electronics that were passed off as high grade, the London Telegraph reported on Tuesday (see GSN, Oct. 5).