Magazine article Insight on the News

When High Tech Falls to Earth

Magazine article Insight on the News

When High Tech Falls to Earth

Article excerpt

Riding the high-tech wave can be a rash, and it has certain strategic advantages -- as the arm's-length air war against Yugoslavia's Serbs attests -- but it doesn't come without the occasional wipeout.

The loss of an F-117 stealth fighter over Yugoslavia represents much more than its reported $45 million price tag. Its fall to earth raises troubling questions about whether taxpayers have invested billions of dollars in an oversold, outdated technology -- stealth. And when the Serbs shot down a U.S. Army Hunter unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, similar questions were raised about whether the United States, in trying to maintain the technological high ground, may be overinvested in pie in the sky.

Nine other Hunters crashed during testing, at a reported cost of $1 million each. Based on the success of a UAV predecessor used in the Persian Gulf War, the Pentagon had planned to spend more than $4 billion on hundreds of Hunters, but the program has been plagued by glitches of all kinds. As maintenance costs began to soar, Pentagon officials pulled the plug in 1996, leaving the Army with 50 hunters of dubious reliability. …

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