Charges cite faulty jet device DESERT STORM/ Weaponry of war City firm accused of hiding flaws

January 24, 1991|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

Federal prosecutors today filed five criminal charges against Nurad Inc. for allegedly concealing defects in 64 antennas that the Baltimore electronics company made for radar-jamming devices on F-16 fighter planes.

Sources said the company was scheduled to plead guilty late fTC today to the charges at a hearing before Judge Walter E. Black Jr. in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

One source said Nurad has agreed to pay a fine of at least $1 million. The company faces a maximum penalty of $2.5 million, or $500,000 for each count.

The 10-page criminal information document that contains the felony charges says Nurad cheated on antenna specifications for the radar-jamming devices and concealed defects in antenna clusters it delivered to the F-16's prime contractor, General Dynamics, on a $4.2 million defense contract in September and October 1986.

Two former executives of the company, in the 2100 block of Druid Park Drive, pleaded guilty last August to similar false-statement charges tied to the antenna clusters, known as 16VE235 aft transmit assemblies, or "235s."

Those defendants are David W. Rider, 48, of Forest Hill, Nurad's former vice president and director of engineering; and Bruce B. Kopp, 35, of Woodlawn, a former Nurad project engineer. They are awaiting sentencing.

Prosecutors said last summer there was no indication that American fighter pilots have been endangered by failures of the Nurad antennas, which General Dynamics installed on F-16s delivered to the Air Force as part of the ill-fated Airborne Self-Protection Jammer (ASPJ) systems.

The Air Force has since canceled the $2 billion ASPJ program as unworkable. But deficiencies in the antennas -- designed to transmit radar-jamming signals on the fighter planes, which are assigned to Europe and the Middle East -- "were sufficient to cause significant degradation in their ability to perform as required," a prosecutor said.

Court documents say Nurad received $4.2 million in purchase orders from General Dynamics in 1985 and 1986 to make 702 ASPJ antenna clusters that met Air Force performance specifications on "axial ratios," "beamwidths" and "gain." The company delivered 458 of the antenna clusters, records show.

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