Rakon cleared of illegal export

Crystal oscillator company doesn't need a special export licence, says ministry

The government has announced high tech exporter Rakon does not need a licence to sell its oscillators overseas.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and its technical advisers have met and discussed with Rakon the application of export controls to the crystal oscillators that Rakon exports", says a statement from the Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, Phil Goff.

Rakon came under fire in a New Zealand Herald feature for allegedly building oscillators destined for use in nuclear weapons and that it was exporting oscillators to its customer, US defence contractor Rockwell Industries, without the appropriate licence. Goff's office says Rakon has not broken any rules regarding the export of its oscillators.

"For electronic components of guidance and navigation equipment, such as crystal oscillators, to be covered by the Strategic Goods List, they must be "specially designed” for military use. This means that they have unique properties distinguishing them for a predetermined military use." Goff's statement says an investigation by MFAT and the Defence Technology Agency, which is a scientific and technical advisor to the New Zealand Defence Force, found Rakon was not in breach of the export rules and is allowed to sell so-called "multi-use" oscillators to US defence contractors.

Goff also says the suggestion that Rakon was creating oscillators specifically for nuclear weapons was also incorrect.

"Radiation hardened products — sometimes loosely referred to as nuclear-hardened — are used in a wide range of applications including satellite communications and the aerospace industry. They are unlikely to be specially designed for military use."

Instead, Rakon has been building "G-hardened" oscillators for a wide range of use.

In December, Rakon managing director Brent Robinson told Computerworld the company was building a full radio/GPS module in a single unit small enough for the cellphone market. One of the problems facing such a unit is that simply turning the cellphone over imparts 2G of force — more than enough to damage the radio.

"Rakon informed the ministry that it has developed a "G-hardened" crystal oscillator but it is not supplying it to any company for military use. G-shock hardened products — referred to as G-hardened — are used in a wide range of applications, including in surveying, marine, aviation and guided munitions applications. They have many applications and are unlikely to be specially designed for military use."

Rakon welcomed the decision.

"Rakon is pleased that this matter has been clarified and will continue to work closely with MFAT on future product developments to ensure all export requirements continue to be complied with," the company says in a written statement.

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