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Entries in Military (61)

Monday
Nov052012

Israeli Army Jeep Hit by Syrian Gunfire

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(GOLAN HEIGHTS, Israel) -- An Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Jeep was hit by gunfire from Syria while on a routine patrol along the border in the Golan Heights, military officials in Israel confirmed. According to the IDF, the Jeep was hit by stray bullets from a firefight inside Syria.
 
As with what happened after Syrian tanks entered the demilitarized zone in the Golan last weekend, the incident has been reported to the U.N. observer force there, and the IDF seems to be playing down this latest spillover from the Syrian conflict.

No injuries have been reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov022012

Pentagon on Benghazi Troop Movements: ‘Swift Action’ on Night of Attack

GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- A day after the release of a new timeline of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the Pentagon has released new details about  the military forces moved that night in case they were needed in the region.

The timeline released Thursday by a senior U.S. intelligence official revealed the major role that CIA security forces in Benghazi and Tripoli, Libya, played in responding to the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi.

On Friday, Pentagon spokesman George Little provided new details of U.S. military movements made the night of the attack in case they were needed.

Little said that within a few hours of the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered U.S. military forces to move to Sicily in preparation for an uncertain situation in Libya.

“This department took swift action,” said Little. “It did respond, the secretary ordered forces to move."

“We were prepared for a range of contingencies in the course of this very tragic incident,” said Little. “We were ready for the need to augment security measures at our facilities in Libya, if called upon.  We were prepared for the possibility, for instance, of a hostage situation, as well.  These were all the things that we were looking at for an event we did not know was going to happen in Benghazi that night. ”

According to Little, Panetta ordered forces to move towards the naval air station in Sigonella, Italy, after conferring with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Carter Ham, the commander of U.S. Africa Command who was in Washington for regularly scheduled meetings.

Among the units ordered by Panetta on the night of the attack to Sicily, which is less than 500 miles from Libya, were two special operations teams that were moved to  Sigonella.

As previously reported, one of the units came from a U.S. military base in “Central Europe.” And Little disclosed that Panetta also ordered another team from the United States to head to Sigonella.  Little refused to describe what kind of unit was sent from the U.S., though it was presumably a special operations team trained for hostage rescues.

Little said both the units “did not arrive until after the entire sequence of events was complete. … They were in Sigonella many hours after the attacks.”

The Pentagon spokesman said that it can take hours for troops to be organized and transported to where they might be used.  He added that at the time they were ordered to move, policy makers "did not know when the attacks would end.”  Little said that, in theory, a hostage situation in Benghazi could have lasted for days.

“We didn’t have forewarning of this tragic event in Benghazi,” Little said. “The entire U.S. government was starting from a cold start.”

Another new detail disclosed Friday was that Panetta ordered the deployment of not one, but two platoons of specially trained Marines to protect U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya.

Based in Rota, Spain, the platoons headed to Sigonella for possible deployment to Libya.  One platoon was dispatched on Sept. 12 to protect the U.S. embassy in Tripoli.  The other platoon was to have gone to Benghazi to secure the consulate compound, but was never sent after it was determined that all U.S. personnel had been evacuated from Benghazi.

Little reaffirmed that no other American aircraft were involved over Libya the night of the attack beyond the unarmed surveillance drone that arrived 90 minutes into the attack.  As for reports that an AC-130 gunship could have been dispatched over Libya at the time of the attack,  Little was clear that “there was no AC-130 within a continent’s range of Benghazi” that night.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul032012

Iran: 'Long-Range' Missiles Attack 'Mock Enemy Bases'

iStockphoto/Thinkstock (file photo)(TEHRAN, Iran) -- The Iranian military has launched a barrage of missiles at "mock enemy bases" as part of a major war games exercise aimed at dissuading any potential outsider attack, the nation's state-run media reported on Tuesday.

During what is called "The Great Prophet 7" drills, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) "targeted and destroyed hypothetical bases of ultra-regional forces set up in desert areas," according to Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency.  The reports did not identify the "ultra-regional forces" but alluded to the ongoing diplomatic conflict between Iran and the U.S., which has several major military installations in the region.

"The main aim of this drill was to demonstrate the Iranian nation's political resolve to defend [its] vital values and national interests," IRGC Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami said, according to another state-run news outlet, Press TV.  Press TV paraphrased Salami's description of the drills as a "firm response to those who threaten Iran with the option of military action."

The United States and Israel have for years been locked in a struggle with Iran over its nuclear enrichment program and the leaders of both the Israeli and American governments have said that any option -- including military action -- was "on the table" should it become clear Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.  Iranian officials have denied the nation seeks nuclear weapons and said Iran is only enriching uranium for domestic nuclear power purposes.

A day before the drills, Iran's foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi told another state media outlet, ISNA, that there is "no option" to end the nuclear conflict except a "diplomatic and political" one.  Any other option, he said, would not be sought by a "sane" person.

"We have repeatedly emphasized that we are seeking interaction and do not welcome confrontation, but if they want to act unwisely, they must be aware that the Islamic Republic of Iran will gloriously defend its integrity..." he said, according to the Tehran Times.  "However, I believe that we will not get to that point."

Press TV said that several different missile types were tested, including the Shabab-3, which reportedly has an operational range of over 900 miles, meaning it could reach potential targets throughout the Middle East.  The U.S. and its allies have several military bases in the region, including the home of the Navy's 5th Fleet in Bahrain, a little over 120 miles from Iran's southern border.  Israel's eastern border is about 600 miles from Iran's mainland.

While the Iranian news reports described some of the missiles as "long-range," none of those described are believed to have a range anywhere near what the U.S. military considers long range -- a term usually reserved for intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting targets more than 3,400 miles away.

The new drills also coincided with fresh tensions that followed a new round of harsh sanctions against Iran that targeted Iran's oil exports to Europe.  Dozens of Iranian lawmakers have reportedly called on the Iranian military to shut down the Strait of Hormuz -- a narrow, strategic waterway that connects the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea through which an estimated one-fifth of the world's oil travels.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the U.S. military has quietly strengthened its presence near the Strait of Hormuz as a precaution against such an action.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun192012

Egyptians Unsure If Military Will Cede Power to New President

John Moore/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Egyptians were hoping for months that the just concluded presidential election would finally provide them with a free and open government.

But now, the situation is more muddled than ever.

Official results of the race between Mohammed Mursi, leader of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq are not expected until Thursday although Mursi and his party have already proclaimed victory.

The uncertainty may be the least of Egypt's problems as the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the military council which has been running the country since President Hosni Mubarak's ouster in February 2011, instituted provisional measures just as the voting ended Sunday that many believe amounts to a "soft coup."

As one independent newspaper put it on Monday, "The military hands power to the military."

While generals tried to assure the population on Monday that the new president will have powers, anger is growing that the military won't cede its new authority of controlling legislation, the budget and a new committee to draft the post-Mubarak constitution.

Suspicions were already growing last week of what might be down the road when the council dissolved parliament after declaring illegalities in the voting that gave Islamist lawmakers a third of the body.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May222012

Report: Counterfeit Chinese Parts Slipping into US Military Aircraft

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Counterfeit electronic parts from China are "flooding" into critical U.S. military systems, including special operations helicopters and surveillance planes, and are putting the nation's troops at risk, according to a new U.S. Senate committee report.

A year-long investigation conducted by the Senate Armed Services Committee found more than one million suspected counterfeit parts made their way into the Department of Defense's supply chain and were bound for use by "critical" military systems, according to the 70-plus-page document released Monday.  In addition to Navy helicopters and surveillance planes, the parts were slated to be put into the Air Force's newest cargo planes.

"The failure of a single electronic part can leave a soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine vulnerable at the worst possible time," the report says.  "Unfortunately, a flood of counterfeit electronic parts has made it a lot harder to prevent that from happening."

Chinese companies were identified as the "primary source" of the counterfeit goods and the Chinese government was criticized for its alleged disinterest in cracking down on counterfeiting there.  The report said that Chinese companies take discarded electronic parts from all over the world, remove any identifying marks, wash and refurbish them, and then resell them as brand-new -- a practice that poses a "significant risk" to the performance of U.S. military systems.

But the committee also pointed a finger at the Pentagon and U.S.-based defense contractors that rely on "hundreds of unvetted independent distributors."

According to the document, the investigation "revealed failures by defense contractors and [the Department of Defense] to report counterfeit parts and gaps in DoD's knowledge of the scope and impact of such parts on defense systems."

"Our committee's report makes it abundantly clear that vulnerabilities throughout the defense supply chain allow counterfeit electronic parts to infiltrate critical U.S. military systems, risking our security and the lives of the men and women who protect it," said Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.).  "As directed by last year's Defense Authorization bill, the Department of Defense and its contractors must attack this problem more aggressively, particularly since counterfeiters are becoming better at shielding their dangerous fakes from detection."

A spokesperson for the Department of Defense did not immediately respond to requests for comment on this report, but another spokesperson told CNN the Pentagon was aware of the report and officials "looked forward to reviewing it."

"The Department takes very seriously the issue about counterfeit parts," Col. Melinda Morgan said.  "We are working aggressively to address this issue..."

Months after the Senate committee launched its investigation, the Pentagon said in November it was moving to protect against counterfeit parts by modifying policies and improving its internal process as well as working more closely with private companies in the industry.

Then, Defense spokesperson George Little noted that "there has been no loss of life or catastrophic mission failure as a result of these parts entering the supply chain."

Representatives for the Chinese government at its embassy in Washington, D.C. and consulate in New York did not immediately respond to request for comment on this report. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
May182012

New China Stealth Fighter: Rival to Troubled US F-22 Raptor?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Just as America’s latest breed of super jet fighters are being reigned in due to a mystery safety problem, a new Pentagon report released Friday notes that China’s own version of a next-generation fighter appears to be designed to have similar capabilities.

“The January 2011 flight test of China’s next-generation fighter prototype, the J-20, highlights China’s ambition to produce a fighter aircraft that incorporates stealth attributes, advanced avionics, and super-cruise engines,” said the Pentagon’s 2012 annual assessment of the Chinese military.

The report comes a month after a second prototype of the J-20 was reportedly spotted rolling around a Chinese airfield, more than a year and a half since China’s only other known prototype made its first public flight.

The three attributes described by the Pentagon are among the advanced capabilities of the F-22 Raptor, the stealth fighter jet billed by the U.S. Air Force and its manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, as the most sophisticated fighter on the planet. But currently the entire fleet of F-22s, which cost the U.S. government an estimated $79 billion, has been slapped with strict flight restrictions due to safety concerns for pilots.

The restrictions, which keep the planes in close proximity to potential landing strips in case of a mid-air emergency, were announced two weeks after an ABC News Nightline investigation found that the advanced $420 million-a-pop fighter jets have been plagued by a rare, but potentially deadly oxygen problem for years. Despite multiple investigations -- including a four-month full-fleet grounding last year -- the Air Force has been unable to pinpoint the cause.

The concept of the F-22 itself has also been long debated. Officials at the Air Force and Lockheed Martin have said the jets are essential to the future of American war power. However, funding for new super jets was cut by Congress in 2009 after powerful critics from across the political spectrum, from Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.) to then Defense Secretary Robert Gates to President Barack Obama, all called on lawmakers to halt F-22 orders at 187 planes, saying that the plane was designed to fight fleets of other, rival next-generation fighters — an enemy that does not exist.

Despite going combat operational in late 2005, the jets have yet to go into combat, from Iraq and Afghanistan to the “no-fly zone” over Libya last March. In all cases, the Air Force said the sophisticated fighters simply weren’t needed.

Just before funding for the F-22 was cut in 2009, President Obama received a letter from more than a dozen Congressmen and local lawmakers in support of the F-22. In the letter, the supporters claimed the full force of a 600-plus F-22 fleet would be needed to counter future rivals like Russia and China.

Since, both Russia and China appear to have developed prototypes for their own next generation fighters. The Russian variant, the Sukhoi T-50, was shown off to the public during an air show last August. Russian news reports compared the jet’s capabilities directly with those of the F-22. Though China is not believed to have more than a couple J-20s, a U.S. government report on Chinese weapons systems released last month said U.S. intelligence estimated that at least some J-20s could go combat operational as soon as 2018.

That document, from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, revealed that some U.S. analysts doubt the Chinese are very far along in developing the “key components for designing a fifth-generation fighter” such as effective stealth technology and high-performance engines.

“We’ve got to continue to watch as it develops. It’s still in the prototype phase,” David Helvey, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia and Asia Pacific Security, told reporters Friday. “We’d like to be able to continue to monitor developments on that to understand exactly what China may intend to use it for and I wouldn’t want to speculate at this point for what those specific missions might be.”

In a speech in 2009, Gates noted that other nations were developing next-generation fighters, but said America is already way ahead in the numbers game and that gap “only widens” as the Air Force begins receiving hundreds of the F-22-s companion fighter, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter - a plane that has had its share of cost overruns and delays in development.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr252012

Two Arrested in Alleged Plot to Smuggle US Military Tech to China

U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Kasey Close(WASHINGTON) -- An international plot to provide China with highly classified U.S. military technology has been foiled, U.S. federal agents said.

Two Taiwanese nationals were arrested after they told American undercover agents they were working for "associates" in the Chinese intelligence community and wanted to buy a surveillance drone and stealth technology related to the U.S.'s F-22 Raptor fighter jet, the FBI said in court documents released Wednesday.

The plot was uncovered during a previous investigation into the pair's alleged involvement in a multi-million dollar counterfeit goods smuggling scheme and crystal methamphetamine operation. The pair, 45-year-old Hui Sheng Shen, also known as "Charlie," and 41-year-old Huan Ling Chang, also known as "Alice," have been charged with violating the Arms Export Control Act along with related drug charges and could face life in prison.

"The charges... illustrate starkly why we do this work, and what is at stake when the security of our ports is breached for any reason," U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said. "National security isn't an a la carte enterprise. The same conduits that bring knockoff sneakers flood our communities with illegal drugs and establish dangerous criminal relationships."

According to the FBI's account, a drug smuggling middleman in Hong Kong unknowingly led undercover agents to Shen and Chang who apparently acted in the U.S. on behalf of a larger drug syndicate. In the summer of 2011, the pair discussed drug smuggling operations with the undercover agents, but it wasn't until September of that year that they brought up the drones, the E-2C Hawkeye surveillance aircraft, which they called the "big toy," and the F-22 stealth technology.

At a meeting held in Las Vegas, an undercover agent told Shen he "would prefer not to make money on something that would hurt the United States," the FBI said.

Shen replied, "I think that all items would hurt America."

When the agents tried to learn who exactly Shen and Chang worked for, Chang began to say they had "special status" and could not travel to countries like the U.S. and the U.K., but Shen interrupted and said, "They are spies."

The undercover operation came to a close in February 2012 when FBI agents met with Shen and Chang to "finalize" a major drug deal and allow the pair to take pictures of some sensitive U.S. military technology.

"The pair planned to avoid law enforcement detection by taking photographs, deleting those photographs, and bringing the memory cards back to China, where a contact had the ability to recover deleted items," the FBI said in the criminal complaint. "The defendants took the photos, but FBI agents were there to arrest them before the photos could be deleted."

The F-22 Raptor is America's most advanced, and expensive, fighter jet. The Chinese have reportedly begun testing their own prototype for a next generation stealth fighter, known as the J-20.

Previously, unknown hackers believed to be based in China were blamed for stealing secrets of America's other next generation stealth fighter, the F-35, in what America's Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, called the "egregious pilfering of intellectual capital and property," according to a February report by Aviation Week.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr182012

US Apologizes for Photos of Soldiers With Enemy Remains

Creatas/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- For the second time in three months, the most senior U.S. officials in Afghanistan have had to condemn images of soldiers disrespecting the bodies of their enemies.

On Wednesday, even before the Los Angeles Times had published photos it had obtained that appear to show American soldiers posing next to the mutilated remains of Taliban insurgents in 2010, America's top diplomat and military commander rebuked the soldiers in the photos and promised investigations.

The U.S.'s quick response Wednesday, and in January -- when video of U.S. Marines urinating on insurgents' bodies was called "inexplicable" -- appear to be attempts to convince an already skeptical Afghan public that not all Americans serving in Afghanistan treat dead bodies in ways that are forbidden by Islam.

But in this case, Afghan and American officials both said they did not expect that the new photos -- only two out of 18 given to the Los Angeles Times, according to the newspaper -- would incite widespread protest. Many Afghans shrug when they see evidence of U.S. mistreatment of Taliban fighters, and in the case of previous scandals, many Afghans have shown they are more incensed by mistreatment of religious texts, most notably the Quran, than they are of fellow Afghans.

Still, U.S. officials rushed to try and get ahead of the story, releasing almost simultaneous statements approved by senior officials in the State Department and the military.

"This behavior and these images are entirely inconsistent with the values of ISAF and all service members of the fifty ISAF countries serving in Afghanistan," said Gen. John Allen in a statement, referring to the U.S.-led coalition, the International Security Assistance Force. "These actions undermine the daily sacrifices of thousands of ISAF troops who continue to serve honorably in Afghanistan."

Added U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker: "Such actions are morally repugnant, dishonor the sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers and civilians who have served with distinction in Afghanistan, and do not represent the core values of the United States or our military."

The Los Angeles Times reported that the photos were taken in 2010, when members of the 1st brigade, 82nd airborne served in Zabul, a small province in southern Afghanistan.

The photographs depict two separate incidents, according to the newspaper. In one, the soldiers arrived at a police station to inspect body parts of a bomber who had blown himself up. As Afghan police officers are holding up the corpse's legs, two Americans pose for a photo, grinning with their thumbs up.

In the second incident, which the newspaper said occurred a few months later, the same platoon was called by Afghan police to take fingerprints of Taliban fighters who had mistakenly blown themselves up when a bomb they were burying in the road exploded early. One soldier places the dead bomber's hands on another soldier's shoulder as the photo is snapped.

The Los Angeles Times reported that a soldier from within the unit provided the photos on condition of anonymity. He told the newspaper that, in the second case, the soldiers in the photograph "were frustrated, just pissed off -- their buddies had been blown up by IEDs [improvised explosive devices]… so they sort of just celebrated" when they realized the insurgents had accidentally killed themselves.

U.S. officials did not dispute the authenticity of the photos, which they said the newspaper first showed them in the last few weeks.

"It needs to be fully investigated and that investigation is already underway," Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Wednesday in Brussels. "Wherever these facts lead we'll take the appropriate action."

The newspaper reported that seven soldiers appear in the photos, and the military has "identified almost all the individuals," according to Christopher Grey, spokesman for the Army's Criminal Investigative Command.

The Los Angeles Times reported that military officials requested they not to print the photos, but that it decided to go ahead in part because the soldier who gave the newspaper "expressed the hope that publication would help ensure that alleged security shortcomings at two U.S. bases in Afghanistan in 2010 were not repeated."

That seemed to suggest that the soldier objected to what his fellow soldiers had done and believed their actions and possibly those of his commanders helped reduce the unit's security. Around the time the photos were taken, two Taliban attacks on two of the brigade's bases killed half a dozen soldiers -- bases that the soldier who provided the photos told the newspaper were not sufficiently protected.

Los Angeles Times editor Davan Maharaj said that publication "would fulfill our obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan, including the allegation that the images reflect a breakdown in unit discipline that was endangering U.S. troops."

In Brussels, however, Panetta chastised the newspaper, saying its decision could endanger troops serving in Afghanistan.

"This is war and I know that war is ugly and it's violent. And I know that young people sometimes caught up in the moment make some very foolish decisions. I am not excusing… but neither do I want these images to bring further injury to our people or to our relationship with the Afghan people," Panetta said. "We had urged the L.A. Times not to run these photos and the reason for that is those kinds of photos have been used by the enemy to incite violence and lives have been lost as a result of the publication of similar photos in the past. So we regret that they were published."

The same brigade is now back in Afghanistan, although not the entire unit. U.S. officials Wednesday suggested that few, if any, of the soldiers in the photos had been redeployed.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr112012

Syria Claims It Will Suspend Military Operations Thursday

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Syria says it will halt military operations and government forces will lay down their weapons by early Thursday morning, the deadline for a United Nations-brokered peace deal, according to envoy Kofi Annan.

Reports, however, suggest Syria would still react to attacks by "armed terrorist groups."

The government's year-long crackdown on protesters has killed at least 9,000 people.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar222012

Military Investigates Showboating in Helicopter Crash

Tim Hawley/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. military is investigating whether an attack helicopter pilot was “showing off” when he made a low pass over a remote Afghan outpost and then slammed violently into the ground, according to a defense official.

The dramatic crash was captured on amateur eyewitness video, which recently surfaced online.

The video shows an Apache helicopter coming into view before swooping down low over a snowy coalition outpost. The person shooting the video, who has not been identified, shouts in apparent fear as the helicopter narrowly misses a building and then seems to chuckle in relief after it pulls back up. But after coming back around, the pilot apparently loses control after the steep ascent, drops down low again and slams its belly onto the snowy ground just feet from the camera.

The helicopter skids towards another group of people, but comes off the ground briefly before crashing again in the distance.

A spokesperson for the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force told ABC News the video was taken Feb. 6 in the Paktika province in Afghanistan. No one on the ground was injured and the aircrew survived with minor injuries, the spokesperson said.

One former Blackhawk helicopter pilot told ABC News the Apache pilot appeared to be performing a “return to target” maneuver — the low swoop followed up by the 180 degree turn followed by another swoop — a standard combat maneuver for which Apache pilots are generally extensively trained.

There was no enemy activity in the area and multiple military experts said it’s possible the pilot was performing the dangerous maneuver for the benefit of the spectators on the ground.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio