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Lawyer: Former Marine Accused of Spying Had Classified Documents on Him

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MOSCOW — The lawyer for an American man being held in Moscow on suspicion of spying said on Tuesday that his client was given a flash drive containing Russian “state secrets” before he was arrested, but did not know he had them and had not looked at them.

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, was detained in Moscow at the end of December. The arrest raised speculation that he could be swapped for one of the Russians held in the U.S., such as gun rights activist Maria Butina, who has pleaded guilty to acting as a foreign agent in the U.S.

Whelan made his first public appearance in court on Tuesday to hear the appeal of his arrest. The judge upheld the previous ruling that ordered him to be kept behind bars at least until the end of February.

Whelan was kept in a glass cage and did not speak to reporters.

Spying charges carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years in Russia.

Whelan’s lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, told Russian news agencies on Tuesday that when his client was detained at a Moscow hotel at the end of December he had something with him that contained “state secrets.”

The lawyer said that Whelan was a frequent visitor to Russia and that he asked an unnamed person to email him something about travel around the country. Whelan reportedly was not able to download it and then asked that person to put it on a flash-drive.

“He was expecting to see on the flash drive some personal information like pictures or videos, something like that, about that person’s previous trips around Russia,” Zherebenkov told reporters. “We don’t know how the materials that contain state secrets ended up there.”

The lawyer said the American was detained before he could open the files.

Zherebenkov also said it was not clear what has happened to the person who reportedly gave the flash drive to Whelan.

Zherebenkov said that the investigators have not yet disclosed which country he is accused of spying for.

Whelan holds U.S., Canadian, British and Irish citizenships.

Whelan, 48, was discharged from the Marines for bad conduct. He works as the global security director for a U.S. automobile parts manufacturer and lives in Michigan. His family has said he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

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Tyndall Air Force Base Damaged by Tornado Months After Hit by Hurricane

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Being SOF Operator is ‘nearly as tough as being a mum’

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Sweden military, Swedish Coastal Rangers
Swedish Special Operations Forces – Coastal Rangers (Photo: Swedish MoD)

Petra ‘Pam’ Malm is a former special forces soldier from Sweden. Once upon a time, she was the first female in the world to pass special forces selection and become a World’s first Special Forces female operator. Today, a 41-year-old female is contesting on Channel 4’s TV show named SAS: Who Dares Wins. In this TV show, civilians are going through gruel training in extreme weather conditions. The fourth season is filmed in the snowy Andes in Chile.

Petra Malm during one of her deployments - Being SOF Operator is ‘nearly as tough as being a mum’
Petra Malm during one of her deployments to Afghanistan (Photo: The Sun)

Petra Malm told her story in front of cameras and restored the popularity she had a long time before after she passed selection. She served in the Special Forces equivalent of the Navy SEAL in her home country after becoming the first female in the world to do so. Highly trained and super tough, she risked her life in Afghanistan eight times.

Pam was the pioneer of female warriors serving in the elite units in the world. It was in 2007. In an exclusive interview for the British Sun, she revealed: “I felt very proud to be the first woman to join. I passed the same tests as the men. Nobody could push me down. I ran as fast as they could, I carried the bags as long as they did and that was really important.”

As far as Petra is concerned, admitting females to the world’s toughest military units is a no brainer.

She said: “A woman can bring so much more to the team. Enemies look at you in a different way because you are female. You can go a bit further as you are so ‘innocent’. You can use it to your advantage.”

“I passed the same tests as the men – nobody could push me down.”

Unfortunately, not all of Petra’s male brothers-in-arms saw it that way. Some said they would refuse to be in a unit alongside her, while others scrutinized her every move, hoping she would fail.

She said: “After I had passed all the tests, some people thought it was great. They could see the bigger picture of what the unit could gain from having a female. But then you had some guys who didn’t think females should be there. It was a tough start for me and for the first six months I had a much rougher path than the guys. Everyone was looking at how much I could lift and how I did with the physical tests. When a female walks in and she’s done the same as the men, they feel kind of threatened and vulnerable. They got a bit competitive.”

Despite their hostility, Petra — who was known as ‘Pam’ in the unit — says she never hesitated or considered throwing in the towel.

She added: “Some guys did say horrid things. One said ‘I don’t want to work with you, I don’t want to be in the same unit as you’. That’s rough when you have done the same selection and training. I was sad inside but I kept going. I had to work harder than the men and I knew it was going to take time. I had to prove myself.”

“You need to have the inner motivation because otherwise, you are going to fail.”

Petra called time on her career after ten years. But it wasn’t the grueling training or the hostility of some colleagues that led to her decision. It was the arrival of her daughter, which meant the prospect of putting herself in a life-risking situation with a little one at home became too much to bear. She quit in 2017.

Petra, who did not want to give details of her partner, said: “When I got back after having my daughter, I didn’t think it was so fun. I had a resistance to the high-risk jobs and I felt I didn’t want to do it anymore. It was a really difficult period in my life. Being part of the Special Forces is the best job in the world and I worked with some amazing people. But once I became a mum, I realized ‘oh s**t I am done’. It took me a long time to see I was done but now I am glad I have given it up.”

Before joining the Swedish Special Forces, Petra Malm served for seven years with the regular Swedish army.

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British SAS troops dropped 20 militants in revenge strike

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The militants wounded two SAS soldiers in a rocket attack, while the British troops were stationed alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the ISIS strong-hold in al-Shaafa. In a rocket attack, more than 30 British operators – including two sniper teams – hit back at the militants. After the short firefight, 8 gunmen were dropped. They tried to flee the strike in range rovers. The Special Operations Forces unit are currently working alongside with Kurdish fighters to eliminate ISIS militants in the war-torn region of al-Shaafa in Syria.

Meanwhile, a SAS operator is in line to receive a George Cross – the UK’s highest military honor – for saving dozens of lives in the Nairobi luxury hotel attack a few days ago. At least 21 people were killed in the al-Shabaab attack at the hotel DusitD2 complex in Nairobi, Kenya on January 17.

The operator, who is in his 30s, entered the building alone, risking his life to save hundreds of civilians trapped inside.

A source told The Sun: “He’s the toughest of the tough with a chest full of medals to back it up. During a series of war tours he has built up an impressive body count – there are few who would be better trained and prepared for what unfolded in Kenya this week. He’s a supreme fighter and took real pride battling alongside his Kenyan comrades.”

As we already reported, he was deployed to Kenya on a mission to train and advise local special forces, saying: “He was mobilised along with Kenyan RECCE Special Forces commandos – he was not out shopping. This guy is elite, he’s the closest thing to Superman we’ve got, but he doesn’t get changed in a phone booth and he doesn’t keep a glock pistol, heavily modified Canada Colt C8 assault rifle with a silencer and a combat dagger in the boot of his car when he goes shopping – that gear is kept on a secure base.”

Source: Express

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Police still looking for missing Special Forces operator

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Military police and local authorities are looking for a missing soldier assigned to 7th Special Forces Group in Crestview, Florida. The search started after Sgt. Greco Antoine Tucker Jr., 23, failed to report for duty Monday morning. He was last seen on Friday.

Tucker “is currently unaccounted for and is not on pass or leave,” Col. Patrick Colloton, 7th Group commander, told in a statement. “Sgt. Tucker is a valued member of the 7th SFG(A) team, and we will do everything we can to facilitate the Crestview Police Department’s investigation.”

His Crestview home showed no signs of forced entry, and his personal property was still in place, according to the police statement. However, his 2014 four-door, white Dodge Charger SE sedan was gone, officers said.

“It is possible he left the area,” Crestview Police Commander Ray Harp said. “He hasn’t reported to work, or to family or friends. It is very out of character for him.”

“We’re looking into the circumstances of Sgt. Tucker’s disappearance to determine if he left on his own accord,” Harp added. “At this point in the investigation, we don’t have any indications of foul play.”

Crestview Police revealed that its Investigations Division obtained search warrants for Tucker’s residence and his electronics, to include phone and computer. The police department also filed a warrant for his bank and financial records.

Operators of 7th Special Forces Group described Tucker as an exemplary soldier, according to the police department. The U.S. Army’s 7th Special Forces Group is located at Eglin Air Force Base. The unit’s area of operations commonly covers Latin America, though the group has operated abroad during the Global War on Terror.

If you have seen his white Dodge Charger with Florida tag 044-QCF, call the Crestview Police Department at 850.682.3544.

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Trump Salutes Remains of 4 Americans Killed in Syria Attack

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DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. — A solemn procession. A long salute. A chaplain’s prayer.

President Donald Trump traveled to Delaware’s Dover Air Force Base on Saturday to pay his respects to the returning remains of four Americans who were killed last week in a suicide bomb attack in Syria.

The bombing, which was the deadliest assault on U.S. troops in Syria since American forces moved into the country in 2015, came as Trump prepares to pull U.S. troops out of Syria. And it underscored the threat still posed by Islamic State militants, even as Trump has claimed the group’s defeat.

The president stood solemnly and saluted the remains of civilian Scott A. Wirtz of St. Louis, Missouri, as his body was carried from a C-17 military aircraft into a waiting van on a bitterly cold, wind-whipped tarmac.

Earlier, he, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan accompanied a small group of Army and Navy officers as they walked up the plane’s cargo ramp, where a chaplain said a prayer.

Wirtz and the three other Americans — Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent and an unnamed civilian contractor — were killed in a suicide bombing on Jan. 16 in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. Wirtz had been assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency as an operations support specialist.

The three other transfers were conducted privately, with the president observing. He also spent time with the families of those killed.

Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Saturday that meeting the relatives of the country’s fallen heroes “might be the toughest thing” he has to do as president. In discussing his withdrawal decision, Trump has repeatedly referenced how much he dislikes making calls and writing letters to the families of those killed while serving overseas.

The trip was not listed on the president’s public schedule that was released Friday night, but he tweeted the news in the morning.

“Will be leaving for Dover to be with the families of 4 very special people who lost their lives in service to our Country!” he wrote.

The visit came during a budget fight that has consumed Washington for the past month, shuttering parts of the federal government and leaving hundreds of thousands of workers without pay. Raising the stakes in his dispute with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the president on Thursday abruptly cancelled her military flight, hours before she and a congressional delegation were to depart for Afghanistan on a previously undisclosed visit to U.S. troops.

Trump delivered a speech later Saturday in which he offered to extend temporary protections for young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children in exchange for billions for his long-stalled border wall. But while Trump cast the move as a “common-sense compromise,” Democrats were quick to dismiss it at a “non-starter.”

Trump has made one other visit to Dover during his presidency, soon after taking office. On Feb. 1, 2017, Trump honored the returning remains of a U.S. Navy SEAL killed in a raid in Yemen. Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, a 36-year-old from Peoria, Illinois, was the first known U.S. combat casualty of Trump’s presidency.

In a Dec. 19 tweet announcing the withdrawal from Syria, Trump declared, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.” He said the troops would begin coming home “now.” That plan triggered immediate pushback from military leaders and led to the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Over the past month, Trump and others have appeared to adjust the timeline, and U.S. officials have suggested it will likely take several months to safely withdraw the approximately 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

A leading U.S. voice on foreign policy and close ally of the president, Sen. Lindsey Graham, said during a visit Saturday to Turkey that an American withdrawal from Syria that had not been thought through would lead to “chaos” and “an Iraq on steroids.” Graham, R-S.C., urged Trump not to get out without a plan and said the goal of destroying Islamic State militants in Syria had not yet been accomplished.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack in Manbij, which killed 19 people, including the four Americans.

Trump said before arriving in Dover that IS has lost almost all its territory but “that doesn’t mean you’re not going to have somebody around.” He also said “we can be pulling back but we’ve been hitting ISIS very hard over the last three weeks … and it’s moving along very well.”

Manbij is the main town on the westernmost edge of Syrian territory held by the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds, running along the border with Turkey. Mixed Kurdish-Arab Syrian forces liberated Manbij from IS in 2016 with help from the U.S.-led coalition.

But Kurdish control of the town infuriated Turkey, which views the main U.S. Kurdish ally, the YPG militia, as “terrorists” linked to Kurdish insurgents on its own soil.

Trump reinforced his withdrawal decision during a meeting with about a half-dozen GOP senators late Wednesday at the White House.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who was at the meeting, told reporters on a conference call that the president remained “steadfast” in his decision not to stay in Syria, or Afghanistan, “forever.” But the senator did not disclose the latest thinking on the withdrawal timeline.

Paul said Trump told the group, “We’re not going to continue the way we’ve done it.”

___

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Syria Withdrawal: Betraying the Kurds to Appease the Turks

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered contradictory messages in a speech in Cairo on January 10. On the one hand, he said Washington will withdraw American troops from Syria in line with Donald Trump’s momentous announcement on December 19, and on the other, he emphasized the US will continue fighting the Islamic State and will also contain the influence of Iran in the Middle East region.

Obviously, both these divergent goals are impossible to achieve, unless Washington is planning to maintain some sort of long-term military presence in Syria. In an exclusive report by the Middle East Eye’s Turkey correspondent, Ragip Soylu, on January 10, he mentions that the US delegation presented a five-point document to the Turkish officials during National Security Advisor John Bolton’s recent visit to Turkey.

“Those in attendance with Bolton during the two-hour meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara included General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and James Jeffrey, the US special envoy to the anti-Islamic State coalition,” according to the report.

A senior Trump administration official briefed on objectives outlined at the meeting, speaking to the reporter, said, “As the president has stated, the US will maintain whatever capability is necessary for operations needed to prevent the Islamic State’s resurgence.”

And then the reporter makes a startling revelation, though hidden deep in the report and mentioned rather cursorily: “The US is not withdrawing from the base at al-Tanf at this time,” the official said. The revelation hardly comes as a surprise, though, as John Bolton alluded to maintaining long-term US military presence at the al-Tanf base during his visit to Jerusalem on January 6.

The al-Tanf military base is strategically located in southeastern Syria on the border between Syria, Iraq and Jordan, and it sits on a critically important Damascus-Baghdad highway, which serves as a lifeline for Damascus. Washington has illegally occupied 55-kilometer area around al-Tanf since 2016, and several hundred US Marines have trained Syrian militant groups, including Maghawir al-Thawra, there.

Thus, for all practical purposes, it appears the withdrawal of American troops from Syria will be limited to Manbij and Kobani in northern Syria and Qamishli and al-Hasakah in northeastern Syria in order to address the concerns of Washington’s NATO-ally Turkey pertaining to the Kurdish militias which Ankara regards as “terrorists,” and the fate of US forces operating alongside Kurds in Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria and al-Tanf military base, in particular, is still in doubt.

Regarding the evacuation of American troops from the Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria, clearly, an understanding has been reached between Washington and Ankara. According to the terms of the agreement, the Erdogan administration released the US pastor Andrew Brunson on October 12, which had been a longstanding demand of the Trump administration, and has also decided not to make public the audio recordings of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, which could have implicated another American-ally the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the assassination.

In return, the Trump administration has complied with Erdogan’s longstanding demand to evacuate American forces from the Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria. Another demand Erdogan must have made to Washington is to pressure Saudi Arabia to lift the Saudi-UAE blockade imposed in June 2017 against Qatar, which is ideologically aligned to Erdogan’s AKP party since both follow the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, in return for not making public the audio recordings of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

It bears mentioning that after the Khashoggi assassination and the international outrage it generated against the Saudi royal family, Saudi Arabia is already trying to assuage Qatar as it invited Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh on December 10, though Doha snubbed the goodwill gesture by sending a low-ranking official to the meeting.

Regarding the murder of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, a question would naturally arise in the minds of astute readers of alternative media that why did the mainstream media, Washington Post and New York Times in particular, take the lead in publicizing the assassination?

One apparent reason could be that Khashoggi was an opinion columnist for The Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon. The Washington Post has a history of working in close collaboration with the CIA as Bezos won a$600 million contract [2] in 2013 to host the CIA’s database on the Amazon’s web-hosting service.

It bears mentioning that despite the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman being primarily responsible for the war in Yemen that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and created a famine in Yemen, the mainstream media hailed him as a “moderate reformer” who brought radical reforms in the conservative Saudi society by permitting women to drive and by allowing cinemas to screen Hollywood movies.

So what prompted the sudden change of heart in the mainstream media that the purported “moderate reformer” was all of a sudden reviled as a brutal murderer? More than anything, it was the timing of the assassination and the political mileage that could be obtained from Khashoggi’s murder in the domestic politics of the United States that prompted the mainstream media to take advantage of the opportunity and mount a smear campaign against the Trump administration by publicizing the assassination.

Jamal Khashoggi was murdered on October 2, when the US midterm elections were only a few weeks away. Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, in particular, have known to have forged close business relations with the Saudi royal family. It doesn’t come as a surprise that Donald Trump chose Saudi Arabia and Israel for his maiden overseas visit in May 2017.

Thus, the corporate media’s campaign to seek justice for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was actually a smear campaign against Donald Trump and his conservative political base, which is now obvious after the US midterm election results have been tallied. Even though the Republicans have retained their 51-seat majority in the Senate, the Democrats now control the House of Representatives by gaining 39 additional seats.

Clearly, two factors were responsible for the surprising defeat of the Republicans in the US midterm elections. Firstly, the Khashoggi murder and the smear campaign unleashed against the Trump administration by the neoliberal media, which Donald Trump often pejoratively mentions as “Fake News” on Twitter.

Secondly, and more importantly, the parcel bombs sent to the residences of George Soros, a dozen other Democratic Congressmen and The New York Times New York office by Cesar Sayoc on the eve of the elections. Although the suspect turned out to be a Trump supporter, he was likely instigated by shady hands in the US deep state, which is wary of the anti-establishment rhetoric and pro-Russia tendencies of the so-called “alt-right” administration.

Notwithstanding, the reason why the Trump administration is bending over backward to appease Ankara is that Turkish President Erdogan has been drifting away from Washington’s orbit into the Kremlin’s sphere of influence. Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO, has been cooperating with Moscow in Syria against Washington’s interests for the last couple of years and has also placed an order for the Russian-made S-400 missile system, though that deal, too, has been thrown into jeopardy after Washington’s recent announcement of selling $3.5 billion worth of Patriot missile systems to Ankara.

In order to understand the significance of relationship between Washington and Ankara, it’s worth noting that the United States has been conducting airstrikes against targets in Syria from the Incirlik airbase and around fifty American B-61 hydrogen bombs have also been deployed there, whose safety became a matter of real concern during the foiled July 2016 coup plot against the Erdogan administration; when the commander of the Incirlik airbase, General Bekir Ercan Van, along with nine other officers were arrested for supporting the coup; movement in and out of the base was denied, power supply was cut off and the security threat level was raised to the highest state of alert, according to a report [3] by Eric Schlosser for the New Yorker.

Perceptive readers who have been keenly watching Erdogan’s behavior since the foiled July 2016 coup plot against the Erdogan administration must have noticed that Erdogan has committed quite a few reckless and impulsive acts during the last few years.

Firstly, the Turkish air force shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 fighter jet on the border between Syria and Turkey on 24 November 2015 that brought the Turkish and Russian armed forces to the brink of a full-scale confrontation in Syria.

Secondly, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was assassinated at an art exhibition in Ankara on the evening of 19 December 2016 by an off-duty Turkish police officer, Mevlut Mert Altintas, who was suspected of being an Islamic fundamentalist.

Thirdly, the Turkish military mounted the seven-month-long Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria immediately after the attempted coup plot from August 2016 to March 2017 that brought the Turkish military and its Syrian militant proxies head-to-head with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and their US backers.

Fourthly, Ankara invaded Idlib in northwestern Syria in October 2017 on the pretext of enforcing a de-escalation zone between the Syrian militants and the Syrian government, despite official protest from Damascus that the Turkish armed forces were in violation of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

And lastly, Turkey mounted Operation Olive Branch in the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin in northwestern Syria from January to March 2018. And after capturing Afrin in March last year, the Turkish armed forces and their Syrian jihadist proxies have now set their sights further east on Manbij and Kobani.

Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Nauman Sadiq and do not necessarily reflect those of Spec Ops Magazine. 

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Irish Special Forces On Their Way to Mali

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The Army Ranger Wing – a part of Ireland’s special operations forces – are to be deployed to Africa as part of the Defence Forces UN-mandated overseas commitments. Their destination is Mali, where the Irish Army already providing 20 people to the EU Training Mission (EUTM), which is aimed at developing the Malian army’s capacity to re-establish some stability in a country that has seen intensifying conflict since 2012.

The Irish Ranger Wing will not be helping in the EUTM, instead, they will be taking part in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), described by The Washington Post as “The World’s Deadliest Mission”. What does that mean for the Irish Special Operations Forces? It means that they will dive into a highly complex regional conflict.

The Irish Special Operations Forces will send a 12-man team and their main task will be operating on long distance patrols in what is effectively a counter-terrorism model mission. In fact, they will continue the efforts of the other European armies which fight an insurgency in Mali. The last counter-offensive by French troops with air support and the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission have not stopped attacks by the local al-Qaeda affiliate rising. They have quadrupled since 2015.

The human cost is the potential for casualties in the new deployment. Northern Mali is a war zone where MINUSMA is seen as a legitimate target. A statement around this time last year said the following: “The casualties in 2017 are the highest number ever recorded by the Committee.

“In the past five years, at least 310 United Nations personnel have died in deliberate attacks. For the fourth year in a row, the peacekeeping mission in Mali suffered the greatest loss of life with 21 peacekeepers and seven civilians killed.”

Homemade bombs or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have taken a terrible toll on the blue helmets. MINUSMA patrols come up against militias who have experience in Libya and who are well armed and well resourced. The most recent UN report on Mali in August 2018 said there had been an increase in “complex attacks” (ambushes) on international forces. The interesting analysis of the further Irish Army Ranger Wing deployment is published in RTE article “Risk is Real as Irish Special Forces Deploy to Mali“.

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AV-8B Harrier Damaged After Engine Sucks Up Ground Wire

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An AV-8B Harrier aircraft operating aboard the USS Kearsarge in the Mediterranean was damaged earlier this month after a loose grounding wire was sucked into the plane’s engine.

The incident occurred as the Harrier, with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, was undergoing routine maintenance, according to Marine Corps spokesman Capt Christopher Harrison.

“No one was injured, and an investigation is underway in order to learn from the incident and prevent future occurrences,” Harrison said of the Jan. 5 mishap.

The Naval Safety Center said it is considered a “Class A” mishap, defined as those involving fatalities, severe damage totaling $2 million or more, or a complete loss of the aircraft.

Related content:

In recent months, the Marine Corps said it is planning new initiatives in sustainment, maintenance and training.

Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, deputy commandant for aviation, said in October that adding defense industry engineers to work with sailors and Marines may be a simple way to close gaps in maintenance issues with some of “these complex systems.”

He noted that 2017 wasn’t a great year for Marine aviation and practices.

The number of Marine Corps aviation accidents rose nearly 80 percent between fiscal 2013 and fiscal 2017, according to a report from Military Times. Most of this increase came in the Class C category, non-fatal accidents sustaining between $50,000 and $500,000 in damage to the aircraft, Rudder said.

“We had a terrible year,” he said of the 2017 increase. In 2018, he said, the service cut all classes of mishaps, A through C, in half.

“So we’ve actually had a great year,” Rudder said in October, “but we’re still concerned, making sure the pilots are trained. … We want pilots to be proficient so they can react well to things that are unforeseen within aviation in the operating environment.”

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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Metallic 3D Printing May Revolutionize Maintenance for F-22 Raptor

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The world’s most expensive fighter jet soon may be flying with parts made from a 3D printer.

Maintainers at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, last month installed for the first time a metallic 3D-printed bracket on an operational F-22 Raptor, according to the Air Force and Lockheed Martin, the company that produces the $150 million aircraft.

If the titanium piece holds up, the part will be installed on all F-22 aircraft during maintenance, and the use of 3D parts in the aircraft could be expanded, with the eventual goal of reducing depot time for the maintenance-prone jets, officials said.

“We’re looking to go a little bit further as this part proves itself out,” said Robert Blind, Lockheed Martin modifications manager, as quoted in an Air Force release.

Though a first for the stealthy F-22, harnessing 3D printing technology for use in a combat jet isn’t new among the services, which have used additive manufacturing for everything from Humvee door handles and rifle grips to gas mask modifications.

The Marine Corps last April flew an F-35B Lighting II aircraft with a part supplied by a 3D printer to replace a worn, plastic bumper on the plane’s landing gear door. The part was printed, approved and installed within a few days, eliminating a longer wait for a replacement part from the States.

Unlike the Marines‘ plastic bumper, the 3D bracket in the F-22 was made using a powder bed fusion process with a laser to build the part layer by layer from a titanium powder, the Air Force said.

The printed bracket won’t corrode, it said. It replaced a corrosion-prone aluminum component in the kick panel assembly of the cockpit that is replaced 80 percent of the time during maintenance.

The part will be monitored while in service and inspected when the aircraft returns to Hill Air Force Base for maintenance, the release said. If validated, the part will be installed on all F-22 aircraft undergoing maintenance.

The Air Force said it has at least five more metallic 3D printed parts it plans to test on the F-22.

“Once we get to the more complicated parts, the result could be a 60 to 70 day reduction in flow time for aircraft to be here for maintenance,” Robert Lewin, 574th Aircraft Maintenance director at Hill, said in the statement.

The Air Force did not say how much time or money 3D printing could save in F-22 maintenance. But Lewin said the technology gives the maintainers the ability to acquire replacement parts on short notice without minimum order quantities, an issue that’s particularly challenging in the F-22 community due to the small fleet size.

Maintenance problems and the small size of F-22 squadrons have contributed to low aircraft availability rates service-wide, a government report found last year.

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