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ACF Blog- February 2023

A recently published US press article has reopened the debate on how prevalent the instances of counterfeit devices are in the US military inventory.
For many years educated guesses and forecasts have been made on the size of the problem and most instances have been found in inventory before mission use. In 2010 a report stated that 15% of DOD electronics may be counterfeit. With the current supply chain issues many assume the problem may have even got worse.
The US investigation and subsequent National Defense Authorisation act led by senators McCain and Levin in 2012 exposed failings in the supply chain and imposed harsh penalties for those found to be putting servicemen and equipment at risk. No significant cases using this legislation have been made public.

Until now; and this new case could well test the legislation and the intentions behind it.

The outcome of this case could have huge consequences.

Could this be the first prison sentence and huge fine invoked which is within the powers of the legislation.

The following is taken direct from the report in the Air Force Times last year.

“An Air Force investigation of a fatal fighter jet crash in 2020 quietly discovered that key components of the pilot’s ejection seat may have been counterfeit, Air Force Times has learned.

First Lt. David Schmitz, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot at South Carolina’s Shaw Air Force Base, died June 30, 2020, when his ejection seat malfunctioned as he tried to escape from a failed night time landing. He was thirty-two.

The Air Force’s official inquiry in the months following the accident found that electronics inside the seat were scratched, unevenly sanded, and showed otherwise shoddy craftsmanship.

Those details have come to light in a federal civil lawsuit filed by Schmitz’s widow, Valerie, who is suing three defense companies for negligence and misleading the Air Force about the safety of their products.

The case in U.S. District Court in South Carolina targets F-16 manufacturer Lockheed Martin; Collins Aerospace, which builds the ACES II ejection seat installed on planes across the Air Force; and multiple business units of Teledyne Technologies, which makes the seat’s digital recovery sequencer.

Six transistors “had no conformal coating, were heavily gouged, had arcing scratch marks, were considered obsolete and were suspected of being counterfeit,” the complaint said. A capacitor that may have been damaged while it was handled was “partially dislodged.”

Now, the plaintiffs are calling for a jury trial to recoup damages that could total several million dollars. The complaint accuses the contractors of wrongful death, accident liability, misrepresentation of the seat’s airworthiness, negligent supervision on Lockheed’s part, failure to warn the F-16 community and the public about the seat’s flaws, and violation of South Carolina law.

The full article can be read here : An F-16 pilot died when his ejection seat failed. Was it counterfeit

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