Entries in Air Force (12)


Syrian President Can't Trust Most of His Pilots, Former General Alleges

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(DOHA, Qatar) -- President Bashar al-Assad is being hampered by apparent disloyalty, making it more difficult to launch air strikes against rebel targets, a former air force general is alleging.

Maj. Gen. Mohammed Fares, now part of the main opposition group, says that only a third of Syrian Air Force pilots are going out on missions to attack rebels.

Fares contends that al-Assad still has military muscle with a fleet of hundreds of planes.  However, many of the war jets are old and in need of parts.

The former general speculated about the state of Syria's military during a summit of opposition groups in the Qatari capital of Doha.

Fares, Syria's first astronaut who trained in Russia, defected with his family to Turkey last August.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian Air Force General Killed by Rebel Militant Group

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- A Syrian air force commander reportedly has been assassinated, according to Syrian state media.

State television reports say air force general Abdullah Mahmoud al-Khalidi died from fatal gunshot wounds late Monday, according to BBC News.  The attack was reportedly carried out by rebels in Syria's capital city of Damascus.

Al-Khalidi is said to have been one of Syria's top authorities on aviation, BBC reports.

The Free Syrian Army has claimed responsibility for the attack, and says the mission also resulted in the death of an air force intelligence official, according to Agence France Presse.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Report: Afghan Air Force Suspected of Drug Running

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. government has reportedly launched a pair of probes to determine whether Afghan officials have been using military planes — many of which are paid for by the U.S. — to illegally smuggle guns and drugs around the country.

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, both the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan are separately investigating suspected illicit activities carried out under the noses of U.S. military advisers and possibly with the knowledge of high Afghan officials.

Suspicions about alleged corruption in the Afghan Air Force (AAF) were disclosed publicly in January in a U.S. Air Force special investigation report on the murder of eight U.S. Air Force personnel and one contractor by an Afghan officer who later turned his gun on himself in the Kabul airport in April 2011. The shooter in that case was identified as Col. Ahmed Gul, a cargo and passenger coordinator for the AAF with reported financial and mental problems.

In the Air Force report, two witnesses stated they believed the AAF to be a hotbed of “nefarious” activity where Afghan officials could make quick money by ferrying people or cargo around the country — often with little or no screening.

“There is a distinct lack of transparency in the way the Afghan Ministry of Defense [and the] AAF like to schedule and fly their missions,” one witness, only identified as a Lieutenant Colonel, says in the report. “The Afghans either don’t know or don’t want to tell us who or what they’re flying around the country. All this looks very suspicious to the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan mentors who have been in country for more than a few months.”

Specifically, the witnesses said the Afghan air officers would be paid directly to usher top Afghan officials around at the last minute. In its report, The Wall Street Journal quoted U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger as saying the current allegations also include the transport of narcotics and weapons “for the use of private groups” within Afghanistan. The United Nations estimates that Afghanistan is home to 90 percent of the world’s opium — the main ingredient in heroin.

Though the Air Force investigation did not find a singular motive for Gul’s sudden attack, when the shooting took place a new system “was being developed to ensure [AAF] flights were officially tasked through a legitimate [AAF] process,” the Air Force report said.

In a statement to ABC News, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force said Thursday it is working with its Afghan partners to “arrest and reverse criminal penetration in the [Afghan National Security Forces] and to ensure security ministries and their forces become sufficiently resistant to and insulated from criminal network interference and subversion.”

“ISAF takes seriously any allegation of impropriety on the part of its forces or those of the Afghan National Security Forces we mentor and partner with,” the statement said. The statement also noted that in the last year, 50 “criminal actors” had been discovered in the security forces.

A DEA spokesperson told ABC News that by policy, the administration does not confirm or deny any potential ongoing investigations. A spokesperson for the AAF and Afghanistan’s Minister of Defense, Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, told The Wall Street Journal they were unaware of the investigations. The AAF spokesperson denied the allegations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Woman Disappears from US Air Base in Japan

U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class JustinVeazie(OKINAWA, Japan) -- An international search is underway for Kelli Cribbs Abad, an American mother of two from Georgia who disappeared from a U.S. Air Force base more than a month ago.

Abad, who is stationed at the Kadena Air Base near Okinawa with her Air Force husband and children, was last seen leaving the gate of the base on Oct 26. Investigators found her abandoned sport utility vehicle about 10 miles from the base.

Abad has two young children -- a 4-year-old daughter and a 22-month-old son -- and has been living in Okinawa with her husband for three years. U.S. and Japanese authorities have searched the area by land, air and sea with divers, helicopters and boats. They’ve also searched nearby caves and cliffs, but haven’t found a trace of the young mother in the rugged terrain.

Abad’s mother Janice Cribbs flew to Japan from Georgia to help in the search. She recorded a desperate appeal for her daughter’s safe return, holding a flyer with a tip line, and posted the video online. She’s also set up a Facebook page, hoping for clues or suggestions.

Friends of Abad, who are stateside, can’t believe she would leave her children.  Melissa Banks was stationed with her husband at the same base and knew the Abads.

“She’s a very good mother,” Banks said. “I remember giving her maternity clothes before she was even pregnant. She wanted another child that badly. So I don’t think she would have left her children because she was just a wonderful mother.”

Abad is 5’7" with sandy blonde hair. Her face has appeared on missing person flyers attached to poles and bus stops across the military base and at Japanese police stations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Predator Drones Flying Out of Ethiopia, US Confirms

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration confirmed Friday that it had been quietly operating unarmed Reaper drones out of an airport in eastern Ethiopia as part of the ongoing U.S. counterterrorism effort targeting al Shabab in Somalia. Al Shabab is a militant group affiliated with al Qaeda that has created an unstable security situation in Somalia.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the drones were operating from Ethiopia “as part of our partnership with the government of Ethiopia to promote stability in the Horn of Africa.”  He added, “The UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles] are not conducting any strike missions from Ethiopia. There are no U.S. military bases in Ethiopia. ”

Asked why the drones were being sent to Ethiopia, a U.S. official confirmed it was to focus on al Shabab activities in neighboring Somalia.  In recent years, the U.S. has focused counterterrorism efforts on al Shabab as it’s become more evident that the group may want to conduct terrorist strikes against American targets.  

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. has “an intense partnership” with the Ethiopian military in training peacekeeping troops and counterterrorism assistance.  “We are working together on a broad, sustained and integrated campaign to counter terrorism. And in doing so, we are harnessing all tools of American power. So obviously, the Ethiopians themselves don’t have these advanced drone aircraft that can provide intelligence surveillance reconnaissance, so we support their counterterrorism efforts with these aircraft. ”

The administration’s acknowledgement of the previously undisclosed drone program in Ethiopia was prompted by a story in the Washington Post.

Master Sgt. James Fisher, a spokesman for the 17th Air Force, which  oversees Air Force operations in Africa, said the drone flights “will continue as long as the government of Ethiopia welcomes our cooperation on these varied security programs.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Chinese Stealth Fighter Could Rival U.S.'s Best: Report

F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)(WASHINGTON) -- The next generation stealth fighter under development by the Chinese military could rival America's best fighters in speed, stealth and lethality, according to a new private report.

Details on the Chinese J-20 fighter are scant as the project has been developed under extreme secrecy, but an analysis conducted by the conservative Washington D.C.-based defense policy think tank The Jamestown Foundation based on the little publicly available information concluded that the fighter "will be a high performance stealth aircraft, arguably capable of competing in most cardinal performance parameters...with the United States F-22A Raptor, and superior in most if not all cardinal performance parameters against the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter."

The F-22 Raptor, which cost the U.S. government $77 billion for 187 planes from defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin, has never seen combat in any of America's three simultaneous major combat operations, but is considered by the Air Force and Lockheed Martin to be a stealth fighter without match. The slightly cheaper F-35, an all purpose stealth fighter being developed by Lockheed Martin for the Air Force, Navy and Marines, is not meant to focus on air-to-air combat like the F-22, but on air-to-ground attacks and is expected to work in tandem with the F-22.

The Jamestown Foundation report, written by defense analyst and F-22 proponent Carlo Kopp, was first published last week just days after America's entire fleet of F-22s was grounded due to oxygen system concerns and a new video surfaced online, purportedly showing a rare test flight by a prototype J-20. The report noted the Chinese planes would not have the range to make unsupported strikes against the continental U.S., but U.S. military bases and allies in the region are well within the potential target zone -- including air bases that have been home to the F-22 fighters. It also says that due to its larger size, the J-20 could potentially carry more or bigger payloads than the F-22.

Though the Defense Department declined to comment on the Jamestown Foundation report, in response to the J-20 video, a Pentagon spokesperson told ABC News last week the U.S. has been "carefully monitoring China's comprehensive and sustained military modernization and its implications for the region."

But as early as January, shortly after a test flight of what appeared to be the J-20, Department of Defense Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters, "We don't know, frankly, much about the capabilities of that plane" and urged observers to "slow down a little bit on our characterizations of the J-20 at this point."

China is still in the development stage for its fighter, whereas once the oxygen system issues are sorted out, the U.S. Air Force will return to having more than 160 operational F-22s. The last of the 187 planes are still being delivered by Lockheed Martin.

As more information has surfaced about the secretive J-20, the Defense Department spokesperson would only say the Pentagon has not been taken by surprise.

"The fact that China has developed a prototype for this program is not surprising and is consistent with the direction we have seen China's military taking over a number of years," the spokesperson said.

According to Lockheed Martin, which is still receiving hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to upgrade current F-22s, the J-20 "shows that other nations are seeking to develop the capability to challenge the F-22, and by extension, our capacity to attain air superiority in future conflict.

"Such emerging threats illustrate the need to continue enhancing the F-22's capabilities so that it stays ahead of evolving threats," a Lockheed Martin spokesperson said.

Both the Air Force and Lockheed Martin said the reason the $143 million-a-pop F-22s have yet to fire on any enemies is because they're designed specifically to dominate the air against rival sophisticated air weapons like the J-20, not small, poorly armed third-world militaries and insurgent groups.

The planes' natural enemy, therefore, is one that the program's biggest critic, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said in 2009 did not exist.

"The F-22 is clearly a capability we do need -- a niche, silver-bullet solution for one or two potential scenarios -- specifically the defeat of a highly advanced enemy fighter fleet," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2009 while advocating that Congress ditch further funding for the Raptor from the budget. "[But] the F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict."

Before the decision was made to cut the F-22 program at 187 planes -- rather than the more than 600 that were originally part of the deal -- dozens of supporters in Congress and state governments sent letters to President Obama arguing that the full force of the F-22s would be needed to counter the next generations planes being developed by China and Russia. Gates dismissed the idea, saying the F-22s and newer F-35s would greatly outnumber any adversaries' forces for the next 15 years at least.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Drone Strike on Pakistan First Since Osama Bin Laden's Death

Stocktrek Images/Getty Images(PESHAWAR, Pakistan) -- The United States reportedly fired eight missiles on a compound and a car in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan on Friday, killing at least nine militants and injuring at least four others.

The drone attack, near the border with Afghanistan, is the first since a U.S. Navy SEALs team killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden Sunday in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Air Force Warplane Crashes in Libya; Crewmen Safe After Ejecting

U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Ammons(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. Air Force warplane went down in Libya Monday night, forcing the two crewmen onboard to eject from the aircraft, according to officials.

In a statement released Tuesday, U.S. Africa Command said the F-15E Strike Eagle went down over northeast Libya around 10:30 p.m. Central European Time after the aircraft experienced equipment malfunction.  The two crew members who abandoned the plane have been rescued and are said to be safe.  Their identities are being withheld until their loved ones are notified.

The warplane flew out of Aviano Air Base in Italy in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

The cause of the incident is currently being investigated.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Military Joins Search for Missing American Boaters

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MANILA, Philippines) -- The U.S. Coast Guard, Navy, and Air Force have now joined the search for a missing sailboat carrying five Americans.

The crew left Guam for the Filipino island of Cebu on Jan. 6. The 38-foot catamaran was scheduled to arrive last week.

Helicopters  scanned the Philippine Sea from above, while a Coast Guard ship searched waters below.

A friend of the boat's captain says he had more than 35 years of experience. The licensed captain was headed to the Philippines for a routine boat delivery.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Air Strikes Over Afghanistan Hit All-Time Low

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(AFGHANISTAN) – Air Force figures released Wednesday show that the number of air strikes over Afghanistan fell to a record low of 91 in December. The number is a 90-percent reduction from the all-time high of 1,043, set in October.

Numbers had been on the rise from May to October due to a sharp increase in ground fighting.

Although a drop in December is typical due to winter weather, such a sharp drop was not expected. The number of air strikes in November, 880, was still very high.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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