Air Force One Guidance Systems Allegedly Sent to Russia

Northrop Grumman to pay $15M for alleged 1998 export of navigation system code.


April 18, 2008— -- State Department investigators found that a subsidiary of a major defense contractor provided portions of the computer source code of Air Force One to a company in Russia in 1998, according to a little-noticed consent agreement reached earlier this month.

The documents, filed by the State Department, noted that the alleged violation by a subsidiary of defense contractor Northrop Grumman "resulted in harm to the U.S. national security."

Specifically, the source code involved the inertial navigation software systems that are unique to the presidential aircraft.

The violations were allegedly committed by Litton Industries, which Northrop Grumman bought in 2001. Northrop has agreed to pay a $15 million fine for 110 violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

The proposed charging document from the State Department Directorate of Defense Trade Controls released on April 2, noted, "Between September 1998 and November 1998, Respondent provided portions of the source code related to the LTN-92 INS modified for use on Air Force One to a company in Russia without authorization from the Department."

Northrop Grumman's Web site offers a description of the system, saying, "The LTN-92 uses three-ring laser gyros, force rebalanced accelerometers, and three high-speed digital microprocessors to provide an advanced technology, all-attitude, worldwide navigation system offering up to five times the reliability of mechanical inertial navigation systems."

The charging letters note that the guidance and navigation system interface "with other cockpit devices utilized on Air Force One and certain source code unique to Air Force One. ... The United States Government has never authorized the export of this critical source code, even to our closest allies.

"This unauthorized export resulted in Russia obtaining knowledge in developing critical INS software that is specifically unique to Air Force One," the document noted.

In addition, the documents filed by the State Department say that between 1994 and 2003, the firms failed to notify the State Department about the computer guidance systems also being transferred to Angola, Indonesia, Israel, China, Ukraine and Yemen.

Northrop Grumman released a statement to ABC News noting that the majority of the violations happened before the company acquired Litton Industries, and that upon the discovery of the exports the company "immediately investigated the matter and submitted voluntary self-disclosures beginning in 2004" to the State Department. The statement added that the company "fully cooperated in the subsequent review" by the government.

According to a spokesman for the firm, Northrop will be implementing internal oversight and compliance as part of the consent agreement as well as paying the $15 million fine.

In a related matter Friday, Honeywell disclosed in Securities Exchange Commission filings that last month, the firm was contacted by the State Department about its export of similar navigation systems.

The document filed with the SEC noted, "In March 2008, the U.S. Department of State advised Honeywell that it is reviewing Honeywell's compliance with applicable U.S. export controls in connection with the Company's export of its GG1320 gyros and related inertial navigation systems under State and Commerce Department licenses. Honeywell is cooperating with the State Department's review."

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