A very interesting article in C4ISR about Pentagon efforts to obtain foreign weapons systems for testing. It deals with a bribery case against Atlas
International Trading, who allegedly bribed at least one person to get contracts to acquire foreign weapons systems.
Atlas works out of an unassuming home in Florida, near Sarasota. It's a quiet three bedroom home, with a screened in porch, and an attached garage,
assessed at over $600,000. You would never think that's where you go to buy a ZSU-23-4, but apparently that's where one was bought by the
At various points Atlas has had Scud missile launchers, SA-8 surface to air missiles (the digital version), and just about every other type of weapons
system that the military could want to get their hands on to learn to exploit.
They actually got four people to talk to them about how it works. Since the fall of the Soviet Union it's been easier to acquire Russian weapons
systems, but it's still dangerous. Back in 2000, the Russians arrested Edmond Pope on espionage charges, tried him, and sentenced him to 20 years.
He was released after talks between the Russian and US governments.
He was in Russia doing research on the Shkval torpedo, and says that he thought it was all above board, and that he had permission to work on it.
Others trying to acquire weapons systems have also had close calls. The US Navy had two programs to buy Sunburn missiles (SS-N-22) in place. One
overt, one covert. The overt program had just about secured the purchase (the Russians were even going to send 10 technicians to assist with
testing), when the Russians found out about the covert program. The person buying them got a call from a GRU major telling him they had found out
about it. He jumped the next flight to London, and just got out.
It makes for a very wild read, and interestingly, I only recently found out that when my brother in law was at Wright Patterson (which is where the
office that handles this for the Air Force is based), he was working on figuring out parameters for foreign built air to air missiles among other
systems. He never talked about what he did, but when he retired they printed his jobs, and that was one of them.
In the high-end suburb of University Park, 15 minutes east of downtown Sarasota, Fla., there’s a three-bedroom, single-story home within walking
distance of the local country club. Attached three-car garage. Screened-in porch. Assessed value: $618,772.
Not the sort of place you’d go to buy a Soviet anti-aircraft system with four automatic 23mm cannons. But records indicate that a ZSU-23, a
Russian-built air-defense system deployed by dozens of countries from Armenia to Zimbabwe, was indeed brokered for sale by a company registered at the
home. The company is a small defense contracting firm named Atlas International Trading.
The customer in the transaction? That might come as the biggest surprise of all. It was the U.S. government.
And that wasn’t even one of Atlas’ most exotic deals. Records indicate it wanted to sell the U.S. a Scud missile launcher — like those once used
by Saddam Hussein and still prized in the arsenals of countries such as Iran, Syria and North Korea.