It’s a problem for U.S. retailers when Communist China makes fake designer handbags and illegal copies of our music CDs, but it’s a much bigger problem when the fakes are chips installed in our military weapons. The American people are starting to discover that counterfeit computer components bought from the Chinese are used in our war planes, ships, and communication networks. These tiny electronic circuits used in computers can cause breakdowns or malfunctions. Fake microchips have been causing military equipment malfunctions since 2005. Four counterfeit chips were discovered in the flight computer of one of our F-15 fighter jets at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. While it is difficult to determine if fake chips caused particular plane or helicopter crashes, we know that we are having field failures in almost every weapon system. Informed military observers believe that at least 15% of the spare and replacement chips the Pentagon buys are counterfeits.
Another danger from fake Chinese chips is that they facilitate foreign espionage. The head of cyber security in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the FBI have both admitted that these routers can allow the Chinese to gain access to U.S. secure systems.
Where do these counterfeit computer chips come from? The U.S. ships our scrap computers to China, then scavengers working in littered streets sand off the dates and other identification, put a new coating on the chips, sell them in bazaars to never-inspected kitchen-table brokers in the U.S., and the Pentagon buys them because they are cheap or because federal affirmative-action policies require them to favor suppliers claiming to be “disadvantaged.”
The U.S. has seized more than 400 fake routers. Nobody knows how many more Chinese counterfeits have been installed in U.S. military equipment.
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