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Fri, May 09, 2008

Three Fighter Cockpits Found In Private Hands

F-14, F/A-18 Stripped Of Wiring, "Fully Demilitarized"

The theft of scrap metal is a growing problem across the country, but this is a little over-the-top. Investigators are trying to figure out how three jet fighter cockpits got diverted from their normal demilitarization process, and wound up in private hands.

The Asbury Park Press in New Jersey reports the US Navy showed up on Apple Farm Road in Middletown with a forklift, a flatbed truck and about 20 troops from Naval Weapons Station Earle, where Special Agent Terry O'Connor of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service told the paper they'll be held as evidence.

Investigators did not identify who had the two F-14 cockpits, and one belonging to an F/A-18. They didn't give the exact address where the military machinery was found, either.

O'Connor downplayed the military value of the cockpits, saying they were "fully demilitarized" and no longer contained weapons control systems or other technically sensitive material. "Even their wiring had been removed," he added.

"These are items that could be sold as scrap or even used as displays or simulators. They were removed somewhere along the way...and we're trying to determine when and how that happened."

O'Connor said the cockpits weigh between 2,000 and 4,000 pounds each. So far, no one's been charged with a crime.

FMI: www.navy.mil

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