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A Russian-based weapons lab accused of selling sophisticated missiles
to China is convinced its ejection seat will beat out bids by all U.S.
defense contractors for the new U.S. Joint Strike Fighter project.
The JSF is the next fighter aircraft designed to replace the Marine
AV-8 Harrier, the Navy F-18 and the USAF F-16. The Russian firm Zvezda
is placing its K-36D advanced seat against three other western defense
companies for the JSF aircraft. The four ejection seat selections have
been narrowed down to the Martin-Baker Mk.16, the Boeing-made ACES 2, a
seat from BFGoodrich’s UPCO subsidiary and Zvezda’s K-36D.
JSF prime contractors will have the final choice of ejection seats
for their respective designs. Boeing and Lockheed are to pick seats for
proposed JSF demonstrator fighter jets. The U.S. Air Force, Navy and
Marines are then slated to pick between the two JSF demonstrators during
fly-offs in 2001.
Boeing has not made a selection, but Lockheed has already selected
UPCO for its JSF flight demonstrator. Lockheed has not made a selection
for the final JSF production.
Despite the open competition between U.S. and U.K.-based defense
contractors, there are indications that Russian-based Zvezda has already
won the contract, using political clout within the Clinton
Zvezda recently demonstrated its political influence inside the
Clinton administration by successfully securing a multimillion-dollar
contract for the SSST — the U.S. Navy’s Super-Sonic Sea-skimming Target
drone project. Zvezda announced last month that it had won a contract
to provide 100 MA-31 target missiles to the U.S. Navy. The U.S. Navy
selection will close Allied Signal’s Mishawaka Indiana target systems
Zvezda’s general director, Sergei Yakovlev, confirmed the signing of
the U.S. Navy contract. Yakovlev was quoted by the Russian-based news
service Kommersant-DAILY as saying, “We sell the X-31A to India, China,
and Vietnam, and the military is happy.”
The JSF ejection seat has to carry a pilot away from the airplane
safely in an emergency. The JSF seat must perform in a wide variety of
conditions, including high-speed, high-altitude flight and zero-speed,
The new JSF strike-fighter will have two versions, a conventional
runway-based jet plane for the U.S. Air Force, and the other design, a
short-takeoff-vertical-landing version to replace the Marine Harrier
Martin-Baker currently provides the U.S. Navy with the “Mk.14 Navy
Air Common Crew Ejection Seat.” Variants of the Martin-Baker Mk.16 are
currently deployed in the U.S. Navy JPATS T-6A trainers and will soon
replace seats in the NASA T-38 Talons. The Mk.16 also is found in the
French Rafale and the Eurofighter.
The K-36 ejection seat by Zvezda is the primary seat for all advanced
Russian Air Force jets. The K-36 is used in the MiG-29 Fulcrum and
variants of the Sukhoi SU-27 Flanker. The K-36 equips MiG-29 Fulcrums
and SU-27 Flankers exported to various third world countries such as
North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Cuba, Libya, India and China.
Ironically, the Zvezda success with the Navy missile contract was
part of a Moscow joint-venture with JSF prime contractor Boeing.
According to Kommersant-DAILY, Boeing Moscow office manager Viktor
Anoshkin stated that the Navy will buy 100 MA-31 missiles over the next
five years at 20 missiles per year.
Boeing’s ACES 2 ejection seat division is one of the three western
competitors against Zvezda in sub-contracting for the JSF. If Boeing
were to win the JSF competition equipped with the Russian K-36, then
Boeing may have to close or cut back its ACES 2 ejection seat division.
Boeing has refused to comment on the MA-31 project and whether funds
from its joint MA-31 Navy missile contract enabled Zvezda to submit
their K-36D ejection seat for the JSF competition.
Meanwhile, Martin-Baker, and Boeing ACES 2 engineers have quietly
expressed dismay at the powerful influence of Zvezda. Boeing ACES 2 and
Martin-Baker engineers are complaining they are being shut out by the
“political” process even before the technical selection has been made.
Russia’s Zvezda-Strela is backed by Gore supporters, Cassidy
Associates and IBP International. Cassidy Associates is a
Washington-based lobby firm that has made hundreds of thousands of
dollars in political donations to the Clinton and Gore campaigns.
According to FEC records, Cassidy Associates made over 2,500 political
contributions between 1991 and 1998.
Cassidy Associates was also linked to the Ron Brown trade missions.
Cassidy Associates sent Maely Tom, a Democratic National Committee
donor, to the Far East on a Brown trip to Indonesia. The same mission
included Charlie Trie, Pauline Kanchanalak and Nora Lum. Lum has
already been convicted of illegal campaign contributions.
The other Zvezda supporter is IBP International, a firm based in
London and McClean, Va., run by Gore-backer Judith De Paul. De Paul has
refused to be interviewed.
According to Aviation Week, IBP International has already leased
facilities inside America to install the Zvezda K-36 ejection seat for
either the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor or the new JSF project.
IBP successfully lobbied NASA to select the Russian Tu-144 and Boeing
for high-speed test flights. IBP also lobbied unsuccessfully for the
Zvezda K-36 ejection seat to be selected for the upgrade of NASA T-38
Astronaut trainer jets. NASA selected the Martin-Baker Mk.16 instead.
Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., has submitted a bill to ban further Defense
Department funding of Zvezda due to its missile proliferation to India,
China and Vietnam.