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Monday, February 4, 2008       Free Headline Alerts

China brokered sale of F-14 spare parts to Iran

WASHINGTON — The United States has learned that China was serving as a front for the illegal export of spare parts of the F-14 fighter-jet to Iran.

Officials said China has brokered purchases of F-14 spare parts for Iran's military. They said most of the components were obtained from surplus offered by the U.S. Defense Department.

"The Department of Defense should not be supplying sensitive military equipment to our adversaries, our enemies, terrorists," Rep. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican, said.

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Shays said the Pentagon must end the sale of F-14 spare parts, Middle East Newsline reported. He said Iran was the only country that operated the F-14 Tomcat, a 1970s-era platform retired by the U.S. Navy.

Officials said Iran has been desperate to find spare parts to maintain its F-14 and F-4 fleet, procured from the United States in the early 1970s. They said Iran has achieved the capability of producing about 15 percent of the F-14.

As a result, Iran has used front companies as well as China and Pakistan to obtain F-14 and Chinook helicopter components from the United States. Officials said the companies ordered the components from the Pentagon's Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service and then shipped the equipment to China and the United Arab Emirates.

The Pentagon was said to have sold the surplus parts without certification of the end-user. In one case, U.S. customs agents seized the parts before they were delivered to Teheran, returned them to the Pentagon, which immediately resold the equipment.

One California company, Multicore, was deemed an Iranian front that acquired missile and F-14 components from the Pentagon. Another firm, State Metal Industries, based in Camden, N.J., was convicted of shipping AIM-7 missile guidance components to a Chinese front for Iran.

In late January, Laura Wang-Woodford, a U.S. citizen and director of Singapore-based Monarch Aviation, was arraigned on a 20-count federal indictment in connection with violating the International Emergency Powers Act. Ms. Wang-Woodford, arrested in December 2007, was charged with exporting components for Chinook helicopters from the United States to Singapore and then to Iran.

"Specifically, the defendant illegally exported vane assemblies and bevel gears, which are designed for Chinook military helicopters," the indictment said.

The indictment said Ms. Wang-Woodford and her husband, Brian, sold sensitive military equipment to Iran for more than 16 years. Brian Woodford has been wanted for questioning.

In 2007, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, demonstrated the ease with which surplus equipment could be bought from the Pentagon. GAO investigators bought $1.1 million worth of rocket launchers, body armor and surveillance antennas without even presenting a Social Security number or credit history.

"The military should not sell or give away any sensitive military equipment," Shays said. "If we no longer need it, it needs to be destroyed — totally destroyed."

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