West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home / Continuity * Mistakes about the Military & Weapons

  1. The Exocet Missile (mentioned in the conversation Leo has with the representative of the New York Times Crossword Puzzle in the pilot when Leo claims to have "recommended an Exocet Missile strike against his [Gaddhafi's] Air Force") is not what would be used against an Air Force:
    1. According to one of our viewers (who prefers to be unidentified): "The Exocet is a French built anti ship missile. Its use against airplanes (in the air or on the ground) would be limited. A veteran pilot would know this. Also, as far as I know, the US Military does not use the Exocet. They would use Cruise Missiles." (Mike Okuda first mentioned to us that this was a French made missile.)
    2. The U.S. military can't usually get Congress to allow them to buy foreign weapons (Congress members fight each other to get contracts to go to their home districts and usually band together to prevent contracts going outside the country), although:
      • According to the above unidentified viewer, "Certain Navy guns are actually made in Italy and many ground troops use Italian made Berettas."
      • But then as Kevin Lynch points out "The Berettas are actually manufactured in Prince George's County, Maryland, although the parent company is indeed Italian." He also sent us this from the Beretta website: "Formed in 1977 to meet increased demand by U.S. consumers, Beretta U.S.A. Corp. is located in Accokeek, MD, just outside Washington, D.C. Beretta U.S.A. began manufacturing firearms in the United States in 1978. . . . Beretta U.S.A. Corp. was awarded the contract to provide the U.S. Armed Forces with the Beretta Model 92F 9mm pistol (designated M9 by the military), as the military standard issue sidearm in 1985."
      • And Vance Frickey tells us: "The information under heading (I) here is partially wrong. We don't use Exocets, true - when we clobbered the Sudan and bin Ladn's HQ in Afghanistan, we used TLAM-Cs, Tomahawk cruise missiles, launched from late-build 688-class subs like Tom Clancy's USS Dallas. The alternatives would be ALCMs (Air Launched Cruise Missiles), "smart" bombs, or one of two types of "dumb" bombs - cluster bombs or fuel-air explosives. All of which we make right here in the good old US of A.

        But when we want to leave great big holes in an enemy airstrip, the Air Force has absolutely no heartburn using French-made Durandal cratering bombs. Among the few fixed-wing aircraft the Army operates is the Belfast-built Shorts Sherpa STOL transport plane. When a Navy SEAL had his face re-arranged by an exploding US-made Beretta pistol during training, the SEALs went over to Swiss-made SIG-Sauer P226 semi-auto pistols, and then to the German-designed Heckler and Koch USP when the SEALs and other American special forces commando units asked for an up-to-date sidearm in forty-five caliber. Even though Colt, Smith & Wesson, and Ingram make nine-millimeter submachine guns here in the States, most US military units, when they use 9mm sub-guns, use various versions of the Heckler and Koch MP5. H&K, like Beretta, has a plant here in the States (Chantilly, Virginia) but the snazzier versions of the MP5 with built-in sound suppressors, snub barrels and folding stocks are made in H&Ks main plants in Germany. And the current squad automatic weapon (light machine gun) used by the US Army, the M249, is a Belgian design which initially was supplied from the Fabrique Nationale in Herstal, Belgium until a plant to produce them here in the States could be built.

        We're not too proud to go overseas to equip our troops, and as the uncle of several young soldiers, I view this as a Good Thing - it places much more pressure on American weapons makers to build a quality product that doesn't jam in the field like Colt's M-16 assault rifle initially did in Vietnam; it also gives the DoD an way to adequately equip our boys (and girls) when a quality product can't be found in America.

        So, if we hadn't already had several decent land attack missiles in our arsenal, there would be no real obstacle to our acquiring and using Exocets (except that many other navies now have very good countermeasures against them). As one of your other contributors pointed out, the Navy already uses foreign deck guns on most of its surface combatant ships - the 3-inch OTO Melara from Italy graces most of our destroyers and frigates and has for a while, and the Swedish Bofors 40 mm cannon is used all over the fleet and even in one model of the AC-130 Spectre fixed-wing gunship.

  2. The F117 which is said, in the first season finale, to have been on a routine patrol over the Iraqi Southern Fly Zone, isn't the plane that would fly such a mission:
    1. We learn the following from another West Wing Website called "The Left Wing" (a Republican fan's take on the show): "The F117 Stealth Fighter isn't really a fighter at all. It's a first strike BOMBER. and stealth bombers don't fly routine patrol missions over Iraq. They're too valuable for that. Their mission is to come in, drop bombs to take out radar installations, and fly out before the main attack happens. F16's, F15's fly the patrols because they ARE fighters. The Stealth doesn't even have any defensive weapons." "The Left Wing" discusses several other problems in their critique of the first season's finale.
    2. These comments are confirmed by the above mentioned unidentified viewer, who writes: "The F-117 would not be on a routine patrol. It is really an attack aircraft or what used to be called a light bomber (WWII term) The Navy and Marine Corps designate attack airplanes with an "A" (A-7 and A-5). The Air Force prefers to refer to them as fighters. . . . The F-117 would be used to neutralize threats such as radar sites and missile installations prior to an attack by other less stealthy but much faster aircraft. The F-117 is subsonic. It also carries no defensive weapons. . . . It depends on the dark and low RCS (radar cross section) for protection."

  3. Also see information on the misidentification of helicopters in #29 "The Portland Trip".
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