There will likely be casualties among U.S. servicemembers as a result of counterfeit technology in military vehicles and weapons systems, according to a scathing new op/ed from Jim Burger and Kimberly Heifetz in Defence One:
Sometime in the not-to-distant future, a submarine will sink. An air defence missile will detonate far from its intended target. A Seahawk helicopter will intercept a suicide speed boat headed for an aircraft carrier only to see its infrared targeting system goes dark.
This as a result of glaring deficiencies and vulnerabilities in the military technology apparatus, deficiencies that Defence One and others report are not really being addressed.
The Defence One report largely centres around counterfeit semiconductors, often from China, that are sold to U.S. military contractors to meet the massive demand for technology in American submarines, missiles, or 5th generation fighters.
There are 2,500 semiconductors in a single F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. And the counterfeit industry is so huge that a Senate Armed Services Committee Report cited by Defence One uncovered nearly 2,000 instances of bogus parts in the Defence tech supply chain.
It’s a serious problem.
“Counterfeit semiconductors pose a serious health and safety risk to consumers and end-users, and an even greater threat to the safety of the men and women of our armed services when they are sold for use in the military,” acting U.S. attorney Deirdre M. Daly said in a Department of Justice press release, where DOJ announced the prosecution of a Massachusetts man accused of selling fake semiconductors to defence contractors.
This comes in addition to news from this spring that the Department of Defence’s science board declared that the U.S. was susceptible to a cyber attack larger in scale than the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
“U.S. military forces are critically dependent on networks and information systems to execute missions. They are thus highly vulnerable if threats to those networks and information systems are not sufficiently addressed,
” the report said (emphasis added).
Additionally, we learned in late May that China, the largest producer of counterfeit military technology, had the ability to hack sophisticated U.S. weapons systems like the F-35 after infiltrating the U.S. cyber community and acquiring the schematics to the technology.
The long and short of it is that there are alarming technological vulnerabilities in multiple echelons of the defence technology infrastructure. From the systems themselves, to the production of the technology, to how that technology is implemented once it is designed.
One of the primary recommendations from the Defence Science Board was that the Pentagon systematically audit its systems in order to find any foreign-made parts. Finding, and potentially removing, all components that are foreign made or from the grey and black markets would significantly harden military networks and the equipment on those networks, the DSB concluded.
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