Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad may have a lot less to worry about than he thinks he does.
Back in 2009, following his anointment as President, Barack Obama secretly approved the sales of game-changing “bunker-buster” bombs to Israel. His predecessor George W. Bush had refused the Israelis' initial request in 2005, and frozen most U.S.-Israeli defence cooperation agreements “out of concern that Israel was transferring advanced military technology to China”.
However the 2009 transaction, which still remains an official secret despite officials leaking the story to Newsweek magazine earlier this year, must have made Iranian authorities lose many nights' sleep fearing that their aggressive neighbour would target them under the guise of going after underground nuclear reactors. Yet more recent developments suggest that it may well be the Israelis who will be worrying about the 5,000-pound bombs exploding too early, possibly over their own heads.
This week the U.S. Department of Justice revealed that a key supplier of components for the bunker-busters called Kaman Precision Products Inc., in Orlando, Florida, would be required to pay the federal government $4.75 million following allegations that it had submitted false claims for non-conforming fuzes sold to the U.S. Army for use in the bombs.
Prosecuting Kaman under the False Claims Act, the DoJ has filed for breach of contract and alleged that the defence contractor “knowingly substituted a component in four lots of fuzes that made them unsafe for use in military operations”. Specifically, the U.S.' allegations related to FMU-143 fuzes for use in hard target penetration warheads, said the DoJ in an angry statement.
In entering into a settlement with the U.S. government over the allegations, Kaman would further be required to adhere to a compliance programme and to dismiss administrative claims that it had made against the Army after the termination of its contract, the DoJ added.
Suggesting wilful negligence, the DoJ alleged that the non-conforming parts supplied by Kaman could cause the fuzes to fire prematurely, creating a hazard for military personnel and causing misfires of the warheads.
While the military was said to have discovered some unauthorised parts substitution and quarantined the defective fuzes, there was no clear statement that every such part had been detected and withdrawn.
Further the impact of Kaman's illicit activities on the supply chain of bunker busters for Israel appears beyond doubt. In a 2010 statement on U.S. military contracts, officials confirmed that “Kaman Precision Products... was awarded a $35,985,342 contract modification which will procure joint programmable fuze systems for four Foreign Military Sales countries at a total quantity of 10,518 units.” It might be anybody's guess which other three countries were recipients of the faulty bombs.
The FMS programme is the U.S. government-to-government method for selling defence equipment, services, and training. With the faulty fuzes possibly buried deep within the wiring of bombs loaded onto flight-ready Israeli F-16s, it may already be too late to stop Kaman's duds from entering foreign military systems.
Unless the well-worn system of product recalls, which in the U.S. is applied to everything from children's toys to power tools, also extends to laser-guided Massive Ordnance Penetrators, Mr. Ahmedinejad may wish to go slow on fortifying his buildings.