US defence contractor fined for exporting sensitive blueprints to Ireland

Honeywell manufactures aircraft and missile components for US military

A US military aircraft armed with cruise missiles. File photograph.  Photograph:  US Air Force/Getty

A US military aircraft armed with cruise missiles. File photograph. Photograph: US Air Force/Getty

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A US defence contractor has been fined $13 million (€10.8 million) for exporting sensitive military blueprints to Ireland and four other countries in an alleged breach of arms control laws.

Honeywell International, which is based in North Carolina, manufactures material for the US military including components for its secretive jet fighter programmes.

The US government has strict regulations covering the transfer of sensitive technical material abroad, particularly to potential adversaries such as China.

According to documents released by the US state department on Monday, Honeywell transferred sensitive material to China, Ireland, Canada, Mexico and Taiwan. These consisted of 71 technical drawings showing specifications for aircraft and munitions, including fighter jets, bombers, helicopters, tanks and cruise missiles. Most of the restricted material was sent to China which the US government has designated a “proscribed destination”.

One of the 34 charges relates to the “unauthorised export of technical data to Ireland”. It alleges Honeywell, without authorisation, exported technical data for military aircraft parts and components on one occasion.

It is understood the company exported the restricted data to a supplier based in Ireland.

Honeywell also manufactures components for helicopters operated by the Air Corps and the Irish Coast Guard. However, it is understood the alleged breach does not involve an Irish State agency.

Security

A spokesman for the company said the designs were “inadvertently shared during normal business discussions” and that it did not directly affect US national security.

As part of a settlement with the US government, Honeywell has agreed to pay a $13 million fine, with $5 million of this going to improve compliance procedures within the company.

In a statement, the state department said Honeywell voluntarily disclosed the breaches and co-operated with officials.

The company said the designs are commercially available throughout the world and that “no detailed manufacturing or engineering expertise was shared”. The spokesman added that since Honeywell voluntarily self-reported these disclosures, it has taken “several actions to ensure there are no repeat incidents. These actions included enhancing export security, investing in additional compliance personnel, and increasing compliance training”.

Honeywell is a Fortune 100 conglomerate employing about 110,000 people around the world. It manufactures a vast array of everyday products including thermostats and alarm systems as well as more controversial materials such as components for nuclear weapons and, in the past, cluster bombs.

It operates a number of facilities in Ireland through its subsidiaries, including Honeywell Measurex, a software company in Waterford, and a plant in Dublin which manufactures automated industrial control systems.