Northrop faked tests of GPS systems, whistle-blower suit claims

A recently unsealed qui tam complaint alleges that Northrop Grumman Inc. repeatedly lied that it had performed certain quality control testing on a navigational device used in military fighter jets, drones, and submarines in order to save time.  Relator Todd Donaldson, a Northrop employee who was allegedly demoted from his position as plant manager at Northrop’s Salt Lake City, Utah facility because of his whistleblower activities, alleged that Northrop employees routinely skipped the 10-minute test of the LN-100 navigational systems to ensure that they were properly communicating with satellites.  Because these tests were skipped, Donaldson complained, any military aircraft containing the LN-100 would be prone to an accident as its global positioning system would be off; likewise, weapons might miss their intended targets.

Although Donaldson did not name any specific accidents that occurred as a result of this alleged scheme, the Los Angeles Times reported that in May 2011, the Air Force blamed the LN-100 for the crash of a Predator drone in Djibouti; pilots were not aware that the drone was actually 400 feet lower than the navigational system indicated, and the drone flew into the ground.

Donaldson initially filed his lawsuit in 2012, but it was unsealed recently after the U.S. declined to intervene and take over the litigation.  Donaldson has decided to proceed with the litigation on his own, although the U.S. retains the right to intervene at a later date.  The case is U.S., ex rel. Donaldson v. Northrop Grumman Corp., Case No. 2:12-cv-00884 (D. Utah).

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