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Micronics vs. the Pentagon : Defense: The bankruptcy of the Brea contractor responsible for a key missile component points to flaws in Pentagon procurement and accountability procedures.

October 29, 1989|JIM SCHACHTER and DAVID OLMOS | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

In a series of bitter meetings and cross letters, DCAS has told Micronics officials that, in addition to correcting all the other deficiencies that led to the company's shutdown, they must verify that the thousands of parts in inventory at the Brea plant conform to military specifications before DCAS will resume inspections of Micronics' products.

That demand, Micronics said in a Sept. 29 response, "constitutes an enormous, almost impossible task with prohibitive costs."

Precision Aerotech, in fact, has no plans to reopen Micronics. "We want to sell it," explained Appleby, Precision's chairman.

It's easy to understand why. Precision's reputation has taken a battering, Appleby says, in the two years that it has owned Micronics. And dumping the company into Chapter 11 has brightened Precision's financial picture significantly. While losses last year at Micronics produced a loss for Precision as a whole, Appleby says the La Jolla firm expects to show a profit this year.

Rather then trying to meet the government's demands, Precision has turned to the task of assigning blame for Micronics' fall. The company is readying a $20-million claim charging that government misconduct destroyed Micronics.

The Navy, however, pins responsibility for the FSU-10 debacle squarely on Micronics.

The Brea firm "was unprepared for the type of sophisticated product processes and management controls required for the manufacturing of this device," the Navy said in a written response to questions from The Times. The problems could not be corrected, despite the Navy's "extraordinary efforts."

Out in the Mojave Desert, though, the engineers say no one can duck responsibility. "With all our successes, we really screwed this one up," says Chalmers, now retired from China Lake. "It's like icing on a cake. There's enough blame to cover everything."

FSU-10 FUZE ON THE PHOENIX AIR-TO-AIR MISSILE The AIM-54 Phoenix missile is the U.S. Navy's primary air-to-air missile for the F-14 fighter.One of the main missions of the Phoenix is attacking bombers before they launch cruise missiles aimed at U.S. ships. THE FUZE'S FUNCTION The FSU-10 fuze is the device that detonates the Phoenix warhead and also prevents the warhead from detonating prematurely. PHOENIX DESCRIPTION The Phoenix missile can hit a target more than 100 miles away. It scores hits on supersonic, high-altitude planes as well as high-and low-altitude cruise missiles. The Phoenix can survive against sophisticated counter-measures. More than 3,500 Phoenix missiles have been delivered to the Navy since 1974. SPECIFICATIONS DIAMETER: 15 in WEIGHT: 1,020 lb WARHEAD: 133 lb LENGTH: 13 ft Source: Jane's All the World's Aircraft

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