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US waived laws banning the China-made parts on weapons|
The US Defense Department has waived laws that ban the use of Chinese-made components on US weapons, including on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jets.
Chief US arms buyer Frank Kendall allowed two F-35 suppliers to use Chinese magnets for the new warplane's radar system, landing gears and other hardware, according to Pentagon documents reviewed by Reuters.
Without the waivers Northrop Grumman and Honeywell International could have faced sanctions for violating federal law, and production of F-35 jets could have faced further delays, Reuters said.
"It was a pretty big deal and an unusual situation because there's a prohibition on doing defense work in China, even if it's inadvertent," said Frank Kenlon, who recently retired as a senior Pentagon procurement official. "I'd never seen this happen before."
The Pentagon documents show that the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, is examining three such cases involving the F-35.
The report comes as US officials have voiced concern about China's espionage and military buildup. US lawmakers are worried that US weapons system may become dependent on parts made by a potential adversary.
Production of the F-35 fighter jet, the US military's next generation fighter, has been plagued by technical problems, cost overruns and delays.
At a cost of $392 billion, the F-35 program is the most expensive arms program in history and 70 percent over initial cost estimates.
A report released in 2013 stated that flaws in the F-35's fuel tank and fueldraulic systems have left it even more vulnerable to lightning strikes and other fire sources including enemy fire than previously estimated, especially when operating at lower altitudes.