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In 1997, the Clinton administration quietly announced that the Russian Zvezda-Strela Kh-31 missile would be the Navy’s next generation super-sonic target drone without issuing an open contract (RFP). The reason given for the extra-ordinary Russian weapons purchase was that the Navy had run out of U.S. made super-sonic target missiles called the “Vandal.”
On Oct. 13, 1998, two House Democrats, Tim Romer and Robert Cramer, joined with Republican House Representative Van Hilleary and wrote the Navy. According to their letter, the Clinton administration informed Congress the purchase of the Russian Kh-31 missile was necessary because “there are insufficient Vandal assets remaining for conversion.”
According to the Navy, something had to be done to address the so-called Navy “missile gap” — thus the Russian missile was selected.
Yet, according to the House letter, there is no Navy “missile gap.” The three congressmen wrote Defense Assistant Secretary for Research, Development and Acquisition Dr. H. Lee Buchanan: “Should the Navy procure the last 30 EER Vandal targets remaining as planned, it is our understanding they would have enough targets to meet the test requirements through 2003.”
Captain J. R. Trowbridge replied on Oct. 23, 1998. “We are gathering information necessary to provide you with a substantive response and will reply further upon completion of our investigation into this matter,” wrote Captain Trowbridge. “You can expect a final response by 10 November, 1998.”
The sudden retirement of the Navy officer charged with the Russian missile project, Admiral George Huchting, has left the project in disarray. Department of Defense official Michael Walsh indicated the Congressional questions will not be answered until Nov. 27, 1998. Huchting left the Navy immediately after this author broke the Kh-31 story.
The obviously false claim by the Clinton administration that there were no more U.S.-made missiles left is compounded by the public announcement of inflated test results by Boeing from the Russian missile test program.
In 1998, Boeing claimed to Aviation Week & Space Technology that the Russian Kh-31 flew over 50 miles during live fire tests. The claim is clearly false. This author obtained the actual test results compiled by Boeing which showed the Kh-31 flew a mere 16 miles under the best of conditions.
The Russian missile falls far short of U.S. Navy requirements for a target missile with a minimum low altitude range of 50 miles. As a result of the poor performance, Boeing has acquired additional Navy funding to increase the short range for the Russian missile, using air launched cruise missile technology developed during the Cold War (ALCM).
House Democrats and Republicans are asking a series of hard questions about the Russian Kh-31 project. Congress is seeking information on how the Navy intends to spend the “$72.7 million in FY99 funds” for a super-sonic target missile.
The Navy’s inability to explain the decision to select a Russian missile over a U.S. made system also involves national security concerns. Navy officials met with congressional representatives and assured them that Boeing and McDonnell Douglas would restrict Russian access to advanced U.S. technology.
However, there are allegations that U.S technology has already been given away. The short-range Kh-31 is so dangerous that Boeing and the Navy would not risk a pilot. The problem forced Boeing/Douglas to use a radio controlled F-4 Phantom to carry the missile close enough for firings against Navy ships. Boeing and Russian engineers shared enough data to fit the Kh-31 to a U.S. built fighter in order to fire the missile safely.
The same jet, the F-4 Phantom, is the number one strike-fighter for the Iranian Air Force — a radical state that has shown interest in purchasing the Kh-31. In fact, the F-4 is the ONLY Iranian jet capable of carrying the Kh-31. Iran flies a large number of U.S. built F-4 Phantoms bought by the Shah – the same plane picked by Boeing and Zvezda to carry the Kh-31 drone.
Iranian F-4s normally fly anti-ship missions against U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. The Iranian F-4s fired Chinese-made cruise missiles at simulated U.S. Navy targets, during the “Road To Jerusalem” wargames in late 1997. Zvezda-Strela has already courted Iranian sales, showing the Kh-31 at a number of Moscow and Middle East air shows. The missile is certainly more appealing to Iran now that their strike-fighter can shoot one.
Boeing/McDonnell Douglas assured congressional representatives that they take the utmost care in guarding U.S. military secrets. Yet, in 1998 Boeing paid a multi-million dollar fine to the U.S. government for an illegal transfer of advanced missile technology to Russia through their joint SEA-LAUNCH project.
McDonnell Douglas is also charged with the illegal transfer of advanced aircraft manufacturing equipment to China. The technology, a giant stretch press for aircraft manufacture, was sold in 1994 to CATIC, a Chinese-state owned corporation, controlled by generals of the People’s Liberation Army.
The Clinton administration approved the sale to CATIC through the Commerce Department then under Ron Brown. The approval came just before Mr. Brown left on his whirlwind tour of China in August 1994. Federal investigators charged McDonnell Douglas knew the Chinese company never had any intention of purchasing the equipment for civilian use because the facility constructed to house the giant machine was put at the Nanchang military aircraft plant.
The equipment sent to China is currently manufacturing fighters based on the Russian Su-27 Flanker. Recent photos taken at a Russian airshow displayed a variant of the Su-27 armed with two Kh-31 missiles. China has expressed an interest in the Kh-31 to arm its own jet fighters but acknowledged the short range missile needed improvement.
The Clinton administration is funding a project designed to improve the Kh-31 for Russian customers such as Libya, Syria, India and China. Clinton wants to buy a Russian missile over a U.S. missile. The Russians promised Clinton they would not sell the Kh-31 even as Zvezda weapons merchants were meeting with Asian and Middle Eastern clients.
Vice President Al Gore is alleged to have supported the purchase of the Kh-31 by the Navy. The Russian maker Zvezda-Strela is reportedly backed by Clinton/Gore supporter Cassidy Associates, a firm of lobby lawyers located inside the Beltway. Cassidy Associates made hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations to the Clinton/Gore campaign. In fact, Cassidy Associates made a total of over 2,500 political contributions between 1991 and 1998, nearly one donation every two days.
Cassidy Associates also traveled with Ron Brown on trade missions. Cassidy Associates sent Maely Tom, a DNC donor, to the Far East on a Ron Brown trade mission. The same mission included DNC donors Charlie Trie, Pauline Kanchanalak and Nora Lum.
The process was driven by political donations and big power lobby groups — not national security needs. Clinton intends to spend $172 million on North Korean food aid but cannot account for the meager $72 million squandered on a U.S. Navy super-sonic target.
The Kh-31 was not much of a missile. Its limited range and inability to be dropped by a wide variety of western aircraft were major drawbacks to Russian marketing efforts. Bill Clinton addressed the Kh-31 short-comings using U.S. taxpayer dollars and American technology. Zvezda no longer has to fear going out of business.
U.S. taxpayer financing of Russian weapons to improve their capability to kill Americans or U.S. allies is pure insanity. Clinton’s actions have resulted in a new weapon, a dagger for radical states to aim at the critical life blood flow of oil. Nations armed with the improved Kh-31 missile could wage a sea war in the Gulf that would sink Western economies into a new dark age.
The Clinton administration elected not to purchase the last 30 U.S. built Vandal supersonic missiles on purpose. The Clinton administration intentionally exercised the option not to buy the remaining U.S. missiles in order to select the Russian Kh-31. The administration lied to cover the switch.
The Clinton administration continues to lie and put U.S. aerospace engineers out of work so that Russian weapons dealers can make big bucks. It is time to stop the insane policy and demand our national security be restored. The Kh-31 project must be killed before it is too late.
Text of congressional letter to the Navy and the Navy reply