Wayne Madsen – Strategic Culture May 12, 2012
Based on past aggressive competitive commercial tactics employed by the alliance of American corporations, the U.S. Intelligence Community, and the Pentagon, aviation experts in Asia are wondering aloud whether the recent crash of the new Sukhoi Super Jet 100 in Indonesia was the result of high-stakes industrial sabotage engineered to protect Boeing’s lucrative commercial and military aviation market in Asia at the expense of a resurgent Russian aviation industry…
The Sukhoi passenger plane was carrying prospective Indonesian customers, as well as journalists and employees of the Sukhoi company, when it crashed into the summit of Mount Salak, near Jakarta. Of the some 50 passengers and crew, there were no survivors of the crash. A reliable Indonesian journalist has confided that the only copy of the passenger manifest was on board the aircraft when it crashed. Other than the Sukhoi crew and officials on board, there were a number of representatives of Indonesian airlines, as well as local journalists, as well as nationals of France, Italy, and the United States.
After 21 minutes into the demonstration flight, the pilot requested air traffic control permission to drop from 10,000 to 6,000 feet. Although there was light rain, weather conditions were not hazardous. The reason for the pilot’s request to descend is not known. Shortly after the plane descended, air traffic control lost contact with the plane. Ground observers reported that the plane appeared “unsteady” before the crash. The plane did not take off from Sukarno-Hatta International Airport but from another local airfield, the Halim Perdanakusuma Airport, which is shared with the Indonesian Air Force’s Halim Air Force Base.
Halim is where U.S. Special Forces troops have been training their Indonesian counterparts in various air force tactics, possibly including meaconing, intrusion, jamming, and interference (MIJI) electronic warfare tactics designed to interfere with aircraft navigation systems. Some of the training occurs every year as part of the EXERCISE COPE WEST, sponsored the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii. Last year’s exercise, COPE WEST 10, concentrated on simulated military operations against the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force, which uses fighter jets designed and licensed by Sukhoi, including the Sukhoi 27 and Sukhoi 30.
The Sukhoi carried a price tag much lower than its Boeing counterparts, $35 million each, and was Russia’s first commercial aircraft offering since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Three new Indonesian airlines, Kartika Airlines, Sky Aviation, and Queen Air, had already placed orders for 48 SuperJets and there were another 170 orders from around the world. The crash of the SuperJet has placed the viability and attractiveness of the aircraft for current and future customers in doubt.
On his last visit to Indonesia, President Obama inked a deal with Indonesia’s Lion Air to sell 230 Boeing aircraft with a $22 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Export-Bank (EX-IM Bank). Obama said the deal to supply Boeing aircraft to Lion Air would create 110,000 U.S. jobs. However, Sukhoi’s entrance into the lucrative Indonesian commercial aviation market, which now has a number of competitors to the partly state-owned and safety record-plagued Garuda Indonesian Airlines, represented a threat to Boeing’s business in the country and the Boeing deal worked out by Obama.
Lion Air is owned by brothers who are former travel agents, Kusana and Rusdi Kirana. The airline’s poor safety record has earned it a ban by the European Union for its poor maintenance record and lack of corporate transparency and some of its pilots have been implicated in drug smuggling. A February 15, 2012 Reuters report concerning the biennial Singapore Air Show, which Rusdi attended, states that very little is known about the Kirana brothers, other than the fact that Kirana is also a former Brother typewriter salesman. The brothers started Lion Air a little over ten years ago.
The Singapore Air Show was attended by Boeing Southeast Asia President Ralph “Skip” Boyce, who was pushing commercial offerings, including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Boeing 737-MAX, and the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental, as well as military aircraft, such as the KC-135R Stratotanker and the F-15 fighter. Boyce is a former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia and Thailand and Deputy Chief of Mission in Singapore. Boyce was criticized by the opposition in Thailand for opposing the anti-government “Red Shirts” during that nation’s military rule. However, Boyce’s contacts inside Thailand’s government and business establishment enabled him to secure an order for 77 Boeing aircraft by Thai International Airways. Boyce was also criticized by some in the Indonesia press for allegedly covering up details of the 2002 terrorist bombing in Bali that killed a number of Indonesian nationals and foreign tourists.
The entry of Sukhoi into the lucrative Asian market with the lower-cost SuperJet was obviously seen by Boeing as a threat to its business in the region. It also helps Boeing that Obama secured the EX-IM Bank loan guarantee for Lion Air to purchase Boeing aircraft.
In addition, Lion Air’s failure to introduce its Initial Public Offerring (IPO) of $1 billion in stock, due to the global financial meltdown has placed the airline in financial jeopardy. Its main competitor, Garuda, has also delayed its stock float, causing a major ripple in the Indonesian aviation market. There is a distinct possibility that without Obama’s loan guarantees on the Boeing deal, Lion Air could have been forced into bankruptcy.
America does not hesitate employing industrial sabotage against its competitors, especially when it comes to Asia.
In unprecedented “car wars” with Japan, the Obama administration did not hesitate to engage in industrial sabotage against Japan through a pre-planned operation directed against the Japanese automobile manufacturer Toyota. In 2010, Obama’s Republican Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, engaged in a bitter campaign against Toyota over problems with certain accelerator pedals that were not even manufactured by Toyota but by the Indiana-based firm CTS (formerly known as Chicago Telephone Supply).
LaHood kicked off America’s anti-Toyota campaign by stating that all Toyota owners should stop driving their vehicles and return them to the dealership for a fix. To the delight of then-financially troubled General Motors and Ford, LaHood painted a wide brush in his comments about Toyotas. The problem affected only a small fraction of Toyota vehicles that had a U.S.-manufactured accelerator pedal. The accelerator issue resulted in a voluntary recall of millions of Toyota vehicles, including the popular Camry and Corolla, by the Japanese auto giant.
LaHood was implementing a White House operation to grab a major portion of Toyota’s market share and hand it over the General Motors and Ford. The Obama administration, through its bailout of GM, became a virtual auto company and decided to play economic hardball with Japan, just as it is doing now with Russia on behalf of Boeing.
Obama’s predecessors in the White House have not shirked from engaging in industrial espionage to boost America’s market share. In 1995, President Bill Clinton authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on companies like Toyota and Nissan during U.S. trade negotiations with Tokyo over Japanese luxury car imports to the United States. George H. W. Bush also used NSA to eavesdrop on Indonesia during negotiations between the then-government of President Suharto and Japan’s NEC on a major multi-million dollar telecommunications contract. Bush shared the intelligence with AT&T, a competitor of NEC on the Indonesian contract. Under pressure from Washington, Jakarta decided to evenly split the contract between NEC and AT&T.
A former member of the U.S. Congress confided that he was never satisfied with the explanation of the sudden death in February 2010 of his friend and the powerful chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania, from an infection after routine gall bladder surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington, DC. Murtha was an influential player in the award of a $35 billion competition between Boeing and European Aeronautic Defense and Space (EADS) to supply the U.S. Air Force with military versions of either Boeing or Airbus aircraft to serve as in-flight refueling tankers. Murtha was replaced as chairman by Representative Norman Dicks of Washington state, who was known as the “Congressman from Boeing.” A year after Murtha’s death, Boeing received the Air Force contract.
When it comes to sabotage and espionage, the ability of the United States to go to great lengths, including murder, should never be underestimated. The sordid record speaks for itself.