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Rather than using American-made equipment, the U.S. Navy is utilizing
a Russian-made missile — with insufficient range to be used safely — for
a target drone, a fact confirmed by Defense Department photographs
obtained by WorldNetDaily.

The just-released documents, showing a U.S. Navy F-4 jetfighter
launching a newly-acquired Russian-made Zvezda MA-31 missile, were given
to WorldNetDaily by the Naval Air Systems Command in response to a
Freedom of Information Act request.

Last year the Navy announced it had purchased a large number of
Russian Zvezda MA-31 super-sonic missiles for use as target drones.

“The Russian Federation X-31 (North Atlantic Treaty Organization
designation AS-17 KRYPTON) has been in use by the Russian Air Force
since 1988,” says the U.S. Navy Foreign Comparative Test statement.

U.S. Navy F-4 fighter fires Russian Zvezda MA-31

“A target variant (X(M)-31) of the missile has also been developed.
The purpose of this effort is the Test and Evaluation (T&E) of the X(M)-31
as a potential cost effective and near term solution to meeting the
Supersonic Sea Skimming Target (SSST) mission. The SSST mission will
replicate anti-ship missile threats and provide realistic fleet training
and weapon system tests,” said the Navy statement.

Navy Freedom of Information officers George W. Griffith and Cole
Cartledge responded officially by admitting that “Russian personnel were
involved.” According to the prepared U.S. Navy response, Russians were
involved in obtaining the required “approvals to negotiate, engineer,
and modify Russian equipment for use on U.S. Navy ranges as part of the
Foreign Comparative Test program.”

“No Russian engineering support for the MA-31 follow-on procurement
is currently anticipated,” stated the Navy response. “U.S. Navy contacts
with Russian nationals is very limited since all MA-31 procurement
actions are with the McDonnell Douglas
Corporation.”

Each Zvezda MA-31 missile reportedly cost the U.S. Navy almost a
million dollars, nearly twice the price of an American-built competitor.
However, Navy officials disputed that figure, providing cost information
showing that, for a limited purchase of three units, each missile
actually cost over $1.3 million. The price would fall to $721,000 each
if the U.S. Navy elected to purchase 20 MA-31 missiles from Russia.

The price of the Russian missile is also of great concern to Moscow
Defense officials. There have been open allegations of illegal payments

made to Russian generals through the Zvezda project. A January 1999
article published in Janes Defense noted that each MA-31 missile
included a kickback to the Russian military of over a quarter of a
million dollars.

Artist’s concept of Russian MA-31 in flight

Navy officials noted that the Zvezda missile project is not being
monitored for Russian corruption.

“The prime contractor with McDonnell Douglas, now a wholly-owned
subsidiary of The Boeing Company, does not include, and is not required
to include any clauses specifically addressing the Foreign Corrupt
Practices Act,” according to the Navy response.

“Should we become aware of any credible evidence of a violation of
U.S. law by the prime contractor during the course of, and related to,
performance of its contract, we will report such potential violations to
the appropriate investigative organizations.”

In addition, China, India and Vietnam currently deploy the same
Russian Zvezda missile, according to Richard Fisher, a defense analyst for Rep.
Chris Cox, R.-Calif. The missile sales raised enough concern inside
Capitol Hill for Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., to submit a bill banning future
U.S. defense contracts to Zvezda.

Despite the reported widespread proliferation, U.S. Navy sources
refused to respond when asked whether American funding might help the Russians
sell the weapon to other interested foreign powers.

“Weapons system deployment issues such as this are not under the
purview of the Navy’s Aerial Targets Program Office,” said the Navy’s response.
“The Boeing Company obtains the basic MA-31 target vehicles via
subcontracts with Rosvoorouzhenie, a Russian State corporation
specifically chartered to deal with foreign military sales. It is
recommended that you contact that organization if there are questions on
how it distributes the funds.”

Yet, according to the U.S. Defense Department, the Russian military
did successfully place contract limitations and restrictions on the American
use of the MA-31.

Russian missiles await conversion at McDonnell Douglas

“The U.S. has issued an ‘end user certificate’ that specifies that
the MA-31 targets procured by the U.S. Navy will be used for target use only
and will not be transferred to a third party,” concluded the U.S. Navy
reply.

Despite the allegations of corruption, the Russian missile has
another serious problem — a limited range of 16 miles. Recent tests conducted
at Point Mugu, California and the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Test Facility
in Puerto Rico show the MA-31 missile unable to fly 50 miles for the
Navy target drone requirements. U.S. Navy officials confirmed that they
are working to extend the range of the Zvezda MA-31 missile.

“Increasing the range of the MA-31 is an operational consideration
from a range safety standpoint,” stated the Navy response. “Extending the
operational capacity by allowing the target to glide longer prior to
booster ignition is planned for demonstration in 2000. This approach
will allow more time for the launch aircraft to exit the hazard area.”

The limited range of the MA-31 places the launching Navy pilot and
aircraft in great danger of being shot down instead of the MA-31 target
drone. U.S. Navy officials confirmed that the Russian missile would
have to be fired from “un-manned” radio-controlled jet fighters in
future target practice.

“The MA-31 is currently launched from manned QF-4 aircraft,” stated
the official Navy response. “The capability to launch from unmanned QF-4s
and improved launch capacity will be demonstrated in 2000.”

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