Precede LOS ANGELES Marines Ground Four Harrier Jets
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Marine Corps has grounded four Harrier jets, similar to those deployed in Saudi Arabia, because of faulty sensors that help stabilize the fighter- bombers, the service said today.
Col. Stuart Wagner said the jets, which can take off vertically and hover like helicopters, were found to have defective ″rate sensor assemblies.″ The assemblies are equivalent to the power steering on a car.
″It’s not critical to flying the aircraft safely, but it’s something we want to fix,″ he said. Officials determined the rate sensor assemblies made by Northrop Corp. are wearing out faster than projected.
Wagner said the grounded Harriers are based at Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Air Station in Hawaii. The defects, he said, will have no effect on the Harriers sent to Saudi Arabia in response to Iraq’s Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.
The spokesman did not know when the Harriers were grounded or how long they would be out of commission.
Northrop pleaded guilty in February to 34 fraud charges of improperly testing the sensors and a cruise missile guidance system for the Air Force.
The Harrier groundings were first reported today by The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. The Marines’ fleet of nearly 200 AV-8B Harriers was expected to come up during a hearing today before the House Committee on Government Operations.
″We simply don’t know whether the weapons will do their job,″ said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., a committee member. ″We may find that some of what our soldiers depend upon will not perform up to specification. It may threaten the lives of many of our men and women in uniform.″
No spare sensor assemblies are available, forcing the Marines to park the $22 million planes as problems arise. No other company produces the assemblies.
A fifth Harrier was to be grounded soon and the grounding of the rest of the fleet was scheduled at a rate of three planes every two months, the newspapers said.
Last year, Northrop was suspended from receiving new contracts for the sensor, among other products.
Northrop officials said Monday they had no knowledge of the groundings.