Iran General NewsU.S. moves to keep F-14 parts from Iran

U.S. moves to keep F-14 parts from Iran

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AP: President Bush signed legislation Monday prohibiting the Pentagon from selling leftover F-14 fighter jet parts, a move prompted by security gaps in the military’s surplus auction. The Associated Press

By SHARON THEIMER

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush signed legislation Monday prohibiting the Pentagon from selling leftover F-14 fighter jet parts, a move prompted by security gaps in the military’s surplus auction.

Those gaps made the surplus auction a prime place for Iran to shop for the spares it desperately needs for its Tomcat fleet.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., proposed the ban after The Associated Press reported last year that buyers for Iran, China and other countries exploited weaknesses in Pentagon surplus-sale security to obtain sensitive military equipment including parts for F-14s and other aircraft and for missile components.

Iran is the only country still trying to fly Tomcats, another name for F-14s. The U.S. Navy retired its F-14s in 2006.

Bush made the Tomcat sales ban law by signing a $696 billion military spending bill that included it. He didn’t comment on the F-14 provision.

Iran bought Tomcats with U.S. permission in the 1970s when the two countries were allies. The governments were so friendly at that point that U.S. Navy pilots helped deliver the jets.

The hostage crisis that followed the 1979 overthrow of the shah led the U.S. to break off diplomatic relations. Bush has called Iran part of an “axis of evil.”

U.S. officials believe most of the 79 Tomcats delivered to Iran have crashed or been scavenged for parts over the years. They say Iran can produce only a fraction of the parts it needs for its surviving F-14s and is aggressively seeking spares.

Tomcat parts aren’t the only aircraft components Iran has covertly sought from Pentagon surplus sales; at least once in recent years, Chinook helicopter parts sold through a Defense Department auction made it to Iran, law enforcement officials say.

The Pentagon announced after the AP story ran that it would stop selling F-14 parts while it reviewed national security concerns. The military had planned to destroy Tomcat-specific components but sell thousands of F-14 parts that could be used on a variety of aircraft. That plan worried congressional investigators and federal law enforcement officials who have seen sensitive surplus including parts unique to the F-14 wind up among innocuous military leftovers up for sale.

The Navy, meanwhile, decided to shred its Tomcats and began doing so last summer at a military aircraft cemetery in Arizona.

Giffords and Wyden say a broad and permanent ban on the Pentagon’s sale of F-14 components is needed to ensure sensitive items do not get out. The legislation lets only U.S. museums and similar historical groups buy F-14s or Tomcat parts. The jets would have to be rendered useless for military purposes.

The measure also bans the granting of export licenses for F-14 parts.

The bill is H.R. 1585.

On the Net:
Read the legislation at: http://thomas.loc.gov/

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