Pentagon: Pepsi ad 'not the real thing'
Says Pepsi can't buy Harrier
August 9, 1996
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon said Thursday that even if Pepsi loses its legal battle over a television commercial that jokingly offered a military jet as a prize, it would not be possible for the company to buy one of the jets.
The controversy began when Pepsi Cola ran a television ad that seemed to offer a military Harrier vertical take-off jet to any customer that accumulated seven million points in a company contest.
While most television viewers apparently took the offer in jest, 21-year-old John Leonard decided to take "the Pepsi challenge" and demanded the jet as offered in the commercial.
Leonard would have had to drink 16.8 million cans of Pepsi to earn the Harrier. But he says the company initially told him he had the option of buying Pepsi points for 10 cents each.
Leonard then rounded up five investors and on March 28 delivered to Pepsi 15 original Pepsi Points, plus a check for $700,008.50 for the remaining 6,999,985 points and shipping and handling.
The situation has since deteriorated into a back-and-forth court battle with Pepsi suing Leonard, and Leonard suing Pepsi right back.
Pepsi has said that it has no intention of supplying the plane to Leonard.
Merits of the lawsuits aside, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said Thursday that he was not aware of any inquiries to the Pentagon by PepsiCo Inc. about a possible acquisition.
"According to what I've read, the Pepsi ad wasn't the real thing," Bacon said wryly.
The AV-8 Harrier Vertical-Short Take Off and Landing (VSTOL) attack jet is used in the United States exclusively by the Marine Corps and it is not for sale, said Bacon.
"It would not be possible," Bacon said, "for the company or any private citizen to purchase their own Harrier "Jump-Jet," regardless of the reason."
He pointed out that Harriers are not now in production, are not certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and use up to 11.4 gallons of fuel per minute.
Maintenance costs would also run into the millions of dollars per year, according to Marine sources.
It is possible to buy some military hardware, such as a tank, for private use, but the weapons have to be "de-militarized" before the sale is allowed. In other words, it has to be rendered useless as an offensive weapon.
The U.S. version of the Harrier is typically armed with air-to-air and air-to-ground missile capability as well as a six barrel machine gun.
The United States has 175 Harriers in its inventory.
© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
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