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Editor:

I think that Ford invented or at least popularized the military grad scam when they went to aluminum alloy body panels for their line of trucks and had to find a way to market the concept. The TV commercials trumpeted "military grade" aluminum alloy while fighter jets roared over a parked assortment of Ford trucks. Impressive marketing, no? Military grade means it's specified and tested by the DoD and used by the armed forces, right?

Sure it does! But, um, what does military grade really mean in Ford's context of aluminum automotive body panels? Is it the thin aluminum alloy skin of military aircraft that is used primarily because it is light in weight, is it the aluminum alloy armor found on M-113 armored personnel carriers and the M-2/3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles because it stops small arms fire, or is it the aluminum alloy that the Navy uses on the superstructures of frigates and destroyers?

Aluminum alloy comes in many, many grades. Which grade are they talking about -- 5000 series, 6000 series, 7000 series? They're different and they have very different properties. And oh by the way, which grade of aluminum alloy is most appropriate for automotive use, IF ANY?

Now we have "military grade" flashlights and "military grade" sunglasses, just to name a couple. Really? What is the General Services Administration number for those flashlights? (If there is no GSA number, the government can't buy it and the military can't get it.) What branch of the military is using those sunglasses, the civilian computer jockeys of the Acquisition Corps, or the Rangers and SEALS? The ads never ever give you sufficient information to verify the claims, and the photos are frequently not the product they're hawking nor the one you will get if you fall for the scam.

Note that the word "grade" modifies the word "military." These are not items of military equipment that have magically become available to the consumer. These are not military surplus. It's hopefully "military-like" or more likely "military look alike."

To put it bluntly, "military grade" means whatever the company needs it to mean in order to inspire sales. Let the buyer beware. Always. (Especially when contemplating a Christmas gift.)

Russ Asson

Spring Creek

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