Wednesday, January 31, 2007

No more F-14 parts

Pentagon stops F-14 parts sales amid Iran concerns

Wed. 31 Jan 2007 Iran Focus
By Andrea Shalal-Esa WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
The Pentagon said on Tuesday it had stopped selling surplus parts for the F-14 fighter jet, saying it was the "right thing to do" given U.S. congressional concerns that some parts could land in the hands of Iran.

Iran, facing strong Western opposition to its nuclear program, is the only country still flying the F-14 since the U.S. military retired the plane in July.

Iran bought the two-seat, twin-engine jet -- also called the Tomcat and made famous in the 1986 movie "Top Gun" -- in the 1970s when it was a U.S. ally.

The Pentagon's Defense Logistics Agency said it halted sales of certain sensitive F-14 parts in February 2006 but the ban now covered all F-14 parts until the government completed a comprehensive review of what to do with them.

"It was the right thing to do," said Dawn Dearden, spokeswoman for the Pentagon agency, citing what she called "the situation in Iran.

"Western governments accuse Iran of seeking to build atomic weapons. Tehran denies the charge, saying it wants only to make electricity.

The Pentagon's move took effect on Friday and came after congressional criticism of security weaknesses that gave buyers for Iran access to the aircraft parts.

The agency, which did not disclose details of those incidents, formerly held liquidation sales of surplus parts.

The earlier halt in sales affected what the agency called "unique" F-14 parts and those "deemed critical to F-14 operations" that could be used for other aircraft.

Dearden said about 60 percent of the roughly 76,000 parts for the F-14 were general aircraft hardware that could be sold safely to the public without restrictions, but that even those sales would be halted for now.

She said the Pentagon planned to destroy some 10,000 components unique to the F-14 and was reviewing what to do with 23,000 parts that could be used for other aircraft.

Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and member of the Senate intelligence committee, has written legislation to eliminate all Pentagon sales of F-14 parts.

"I'm glad that the Pentagon is shutting the door on these weapons sales. National security, however, demands that we lock it," Wyden said. "The only way to ensure that America doesn't arm Iran is for the U.S. to permanently stop selling these weapons parts.

"Wyden's bill would also ban previous buyers of surplus F-14 parts from exporting them to third parties.

The Government Accountability Office has issued several reports in recent years raising concerns about the lack of adequate security in the Pentagon's property sales.

For instance, its undercover investigators found several sensitive excess items, including 12 digital microcircuits used in F-14s, were improperly sold to the public.

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