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Pentagon holds up payment on missiles over quality snag

Payment has been suspended to a major military contractor for three key missile systems, including the Phoenix air-to-air missile, because of quality-control problems, the Pentagon said Thursday. Production problems at the Tucson, Ariz., plant of Hughes Aircraft Company have beset the Phoenix, TOW antitank missile, and Maverick air-to-ground missile.

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Defense sources said the temporary suspension would also serve as a warning to contractors that the Pentagon was moving to halt shoddy workmanship, overcharging, and late deliveries.