US Navy

US F/A-18E Shoots Down Syrian Su-22 in Air-to-Air Kill

Cmdr. Patrick McKenna pilots an F/A-18E Super Hornet from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Pacific Ocean on April 18, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo/Aaron B. Hicks)
Cmdr. Patrick McKenna pilots an F/A-18E Super Hornet from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Pacific Ocean on April 18, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo/Aaron B. Hicks)
 

A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Su-22 on Sunday after the Soviet-era fighter-bomber dropped munitions near U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighters, U.S. Central Command officials confirmed.

The strike was believed to be the U.S. military’s first air-to-air kill involving manned aircraft in nearly two decades. The last known such instance was when a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon shot down a Serbian MiG-29 in 1999 during the Kosovo campaign.

“A Syrian regime SU-22 dropped bombs near SDF fighters south of Tabqah and, in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces, was immediately shot down by a U.S. F/A-18E Super Hornet,” the command said in a release.

The attack comes after pro-Syrian forces attacked SDF fighters in Ja’Din, wounding a number of SDF fighters, officials said. The town is south of Tabqah and a known area where U.S. works with Russia to deconflict the airspace.

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“Coalition aircraft conducted a show of force and stopped the initial pro-regime advance toward the SDF-controlled town,” the release said.

Following the advance on the SDF, the coalition alerted Russian counterparts to de-escalate the situation. However the forces — backed by President Bashar al-Assad — did not appear to back down, with the Su-22 entering the area, CentCom said.

“The coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend coalition or partner forces from any threat,” the command said.

While Central Command said its mission is to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, the strike against the pro-Syrian regime forces marks the fourth strike in recent weeks by the coalition.

Drone Shootdown

Most recently, a U.S. F-15E on June 8 shot down an unidentified drone deemed hostile toward coalition forces in At Tanf.

The drone, similar in size to a U.S. MQ-1 Predator, was suspected to be “pro-regime” and was struck down after it was observed dropping a munition near coalition personnel training partner forces in the fight against the Islamic State, according to Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Army Col. Ryan Dillon.

The drone strike marked the first time that forces supporting the Syrian government have attacked inside a so-called “deconfliction” zone near At Tanf, close to the Jordanian border, Dillon said.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has said the pro-Syrian forces are backed by Iran, and have been knowingly operating “inside an established and agreed-upon deconfliction zone.” They are believed to be a threat to coalition forces in the region, he has said.

The deconfliction zone is an area in which U.S. and Russian forces have agreed not to operate. The zone previously applied to airspace but now includes ground territory, a defense official told Military.com last month.

First Kill

The last air-to-air kill for the F/A-18 was during the Gulf War when two F/A-18s shot down two Iraqi MiG-21s during a brief dogfight. The kill over Syria, however, is believed to be the first air-to-air kill for the E model.

The F/A-18s are flying the most combat missions in Operation Inherent Resolve, the Pentagon’s name for operations against the Islamic State, according to recent statistics provided to Military.com.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Su-22 — a variant of the Sukhoi 17 and Su-20 and heavily used throughout the Arab-Israeli conflicts and the 1982 Lebanon War — have been involved in the Assad’s Syrian war since roughly mid-2012.

The Su-22s were believed to be the aircraft behind the nerve agent attack in April against the town of Khan Sheikhoun in northwestern Syria’s Idlib governorate.

Days later, President Donald Trump ordered two Navy destroyers to launch more than 50 Tomahawk missiles on Al Shayrat base north of Damascus, where the SU-22s launched from.

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

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What we know about Navy destroyer’s deadly collision with a container ship in Japan

By JULIA JACOBO  Jun 19, 2017, 1:13 PM ET

The Japanese coast guard is now investigating the deadly collision between the Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald and a container ship off the coast of Japan Saturday that killed seven U.S. sailors and injured several more.

Here’s what we know:

The collision happened early Saturday

The USS Fitzgerald collided with the Philippine-flagged container ship off the coast of Yokosuka, Japan, before 2:20 a.m. Saturday local time, according to the U.S. Navy.

The Navy destroyer was operating about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan, when it collided with the container ship. Most of the 300 crew members on board would have been asleep at the time, The Associated Press reported.

Weather conditions were clear at the time of the collision, the AP reported. The area is often busy with sea traffic, with as many as 400 ships passing through it every day, according to Japan’s coast guard.

The container ship made a sudden turn shortly before the collision

The route of the container ship ACX Crystal, provided by vessel-tracking service MarineTraffic, shows that the ship made a sudden turn around 1:30 a.m., as if possible trying to avoid something, before continuing eastward.

PHOTO: A screenshot provided by vessel-tracking service MarineTraffic shows the route of the container ship ACX Crystal that collided with the USS Fitzgerald in the waters southwest of Tokyo, June 16, 2017, killing seven U.S. sailors. MarineTraffic via AP
A screenshot provided by vessel-tracking service MarineTraffic shows the route of the container ship ACX Crystal that collided with the USS Fitzgerald in the waters southwest of Tokyo, June 16, 2017, killing seven U.S. sailors. more +

The ACX Crystal then made a U-turn and returned around 2:20 a.m. to the area near the collision.

It took nearly an hour for the collision to be reported

An official for Japan’s coast guard said it is investigating why it took nearly an hour for the collision to be reported, the AP reported.

The coast guard originally said the collision occurred at 2:20 a.m. because when the container ship reported the incident it at 2:25 a.m., it said the collision had just happened. The coast guard later changed the collision time to 1:30 a.m. after interviewing crewmembers aboard the container ship.

Coast guard officials are trying to get a hold of a device with communication records to further examine the details of the crash, which is also being investigated by Japan’s Transport Safety Board.

The U.S. Navy said it is sticking with the 2:20 a.m. timing for the crash that had been reported by the USS Fitzgerald, according to the AP.

A spokeswoman for the NYK Line, the ship’s operator, agreed with the earlier timing, but she could not provide details about what the ship was doing for the 50 minutes between the time of the collision and when it was reported.

7 sailors were killed

Initially after the collision, five sailors aboard the USS Fitzgerald were reported injured and seven sailors were reported missing. The remains of the missing sailors were later found in the berthing compartments, which were flooded.

The deceased sailors were identified as: Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, of Palmyra, Virginia; Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, of San Diego; Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, of Oakville, Connecticut; Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, of Weslaco, Texas; Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, of Chula Vista, California; Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, of Halethorpe, Maryland; and Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, of Elyria, Ohio.

PHOTO: The seven U.S. sailors who died in a collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship off Japan, June 17, 2017.U.S. Navy via AP
The seven U.S. sailors who died in a collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship off Japan, June 17, 2017.

The victims may have been killed by the impact of the collision or drowned in the flooding, Navy spokesman Lt. Paul Newman said, according to the AP.

Four sailors and the ship’s commanding officer were medically evacuated by a Japanese coast guard helicopter, Cmdr. Richard Gourley of the U.S. Naval Forces Japan said. The 7th fleet later confirmed that the sailors were in stable condition and were being treated for lacerations and bruises at the Naval Hospital Yokosuka.

The captain of the Fitzgerald, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, suffered a head injury in the collision.

Raleigh, North Carolina, resident Mia Sykes told the AP that her son, Brayden Harden, 19, was knocked out of his bunk by the impact of the crash, and that water immediately began filling the berth.

Harden tried to save his shipmates by diving back down until the flooded berth began running out of air pockets, Sykes said.

Sykes said her son told her that four men in his berth died, including those sleeping in bunks below and above him. Three men in the berth above his died as well, Sykes said her son told her.

The warship sustained ‘extensive’ damage

The USS Fitzgerald sustained damage on its starboard side and experienced flooded in some spaces as a result of the collision, according to the Navy.

At a news conference Sunday, Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin of the 7th Fleet described the damage as “extensive.” One side of the destroyer suffered a big puncture and gash below the waterline, and three compartments were severely damaged, Aucoin said.

“The water flow is tremendous, and so there wasn’t a lot of time in those spaces that were open to the sea…,” he said. “They had to fight the ship to keep it above the surface. It was traumatic.”

PHOTO: The damaged side of USS Fitzgerald at the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo, June 18, 2017. Eugene Hoshiko/AP
The damaged side of USS Fitzgerald at the U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo, June 18, 2017.

While the ship will require “significant repair,” it is “salvageable,” Aucoin said, adding that he hopes the repairs take less than a year.

The container ship’s left bow was dented and scraped in the collision as well.

PHOTO: The container ship ACX Crystal with its left bow dented and scraped after colliding with the USS Fitzgerald in the waters off the Izu Peninsula, is berthed at the Oi Container Terminal in Tokyo, June 17, 2017.Hitoshi Takano/Kyodo News via AP
The container ship ACX Crystal with its left bow dented and scraped after colliding with the USS Fitzgerald in the waters off the Izu Peninsula, is berthed at the Oi Container Terminal in Tokyo, June 17, 2017.more +
PHOTO: The container ship ACX Crystal with its left bow dented and scraped after colliding with the USS Fitzgerald in the waters off the Izu Peninsula on June 17, 2017, is berthed at the Yokohama port near Tokyo, June 19, 2017.
Hiroshi Kashimura/Kyodo News via AP
The container ship ACX Crystal with its left bow dented and scraped after colliding with the USS Fitzgerald in the waters off the Izu Peninsula on June 17, 2017, is berthed at the Yokohama port near Tokyo, June 19, 2017. more +

The damage to the destroyer may suggest that the container ship slammed into it at a high speed, according to The AP.

What we still don’t know

It is unclear whether there were any warning signs leading up to the collision, and authorities have not speculated on the cause of the crash.

Although weather conditions were clear at the time of the collision, the fast currents and high-traffic area could make it tricky to navigate.

It is also unclear whether the sudden turn taken by the shipping container contributed to the collision.

ABC News’ Luis Martinez and Elizabeth McLaughlin contributed to this story, which was supplemented with reporting by The Associated Press.

Russian warning after US downs Syrian jet

An F/A-18E Super Hornet (similar to the one pictured) shot down the Syrian plane© Getty Images An F/A-18E Super Hornet (similar to the one pictured) shot down the Syrian plane Russia has warned the US-led coalition fighting in Syria that it will view its aircraft as targets, after a Syrian military plane was shot down.

The coalition said it had shot down the Syrian SU-22 after it bombed US-backed rebels in Raqqa province on Sunday.

Russia, Syria’s main ally, said it was also halting communication with the US aimed at preventing air incidents.

Syria condemned America’s “flagrant attack”, saying it would have “dangerous repercussions”.

“Any aircraft, including planes and drones belonging to the international coalition operating west of the Euphrates river, will be tracked by Russian anti-aircraft forces in the sky and on the ground and treated as targets,” the Russian defence ministry said.

It denied the US had used a communications channel before the SU-22 fighter bomber was downed.

The memorandum of co-operation with the coalition aimed at preventing air incidents and guaranteeing flight safety was ending as of Monday, the defence ministry added.

What does this signify? Jonathan Marcus, BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent

The downing of a Syrian warplane by a US jet threatens to draw Washington further into the Syrian fighting.

The US has already attacked pro-government forces on the ground after they entered an exclusion zone designed to protect US personnel training and advising anti-government rebels near Syria’s border with Iraq.

Now Washington is extending this protection to forces that it backs who are engaged in the offensive against Raqqa. These local, tactical steps inevitably could have strategic implications creating a further source of friction between Washington and Tehran.

Iran’s focus is increasingly on the border region between Syria and Iraq. The struggle for control of this crucial territory is becoming ever more dangerous.

Iran’s own missile strikes against what it says are IS targets underscores Tehran’s willingness to act in defence of its own interests in Syria.

The co-operation had been halted after the US launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria’s Shayrat airbase in April in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town in Idlib province.

But the US and Russia had agreed to resume communications last month.

The SU-22 fighter bomber was engaged by an F/A-18E Super Hornet after it had dropped bombs near the town of Tabqa in Raqqa province on Sunday afternoon, the Pentagon said.

It is believed to be the first air-to-air kill of a manned aircraft by a US military jet since the Kosovo campaign in 1999.

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were operating in the Tabqa area.

The SDF have been fighting Islamic State militants as part of a drive to retake the city of Raqqa, the IS stronghold further to the east.

Map showing control of Iraq and Syria (31 May 2017)

© BBC Map showing control of Iraq and Syria (31 May 2017) A statement from the US-led coalition’s Operation Inherent Resolve said pro-government militiamen had attacked SDF units, driving them from the town of Ja’Din.

The US-led coalition conducted what it said was a “show of force” – a reported buzzing of the pro-government troops by jets – to stop the attack and then called Russia to try to “de-escalate the situation and stop the firing”.

However, the SU-22 dropped bombs on SDF positions a few hours later, the coalition said, and “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defence of coalition-partnered forces [the plane] was immediately shot down”.

Attempts to warn the plane away using an emergency radio frequency failed, the US Central Command said.

The coalition statement added: “The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward Coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-Isis [IS] operations will not be tolerated.”

The coalition, it added, did “not seek to fight the Syrian regime, Russian or pro-regime forces partnered with them, but will not hesitate to defend coalition or partner forces from any threat”.

The Syrian army said its warplane had been on a mission against IS when it came under fire, according to state television.

It said the incident would have “dangerous repercussions” on efforts to fight terrorism.

An army statement said the pilot of the plane was missing.

Although this is the first time the coalition has shot down a Syrian jet, there have been an increasing number of incidents between the two sides:

In a separate incident on Sunday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said they had launched several missiles from Iran into eastern Syria, targeting IS fighters.

The Guards said they had fired mid-range ground-to-ground missiles from western Iran targeting “the headquarters and meeting place and suicide car assembly line” of “IS terrorists” in Deir al-Zour province.

A “large number” of militants were killed and equipment and weapons were destroyed, the Guards said.

The missiles were apparently in response to an IS-claimed attack on the Iranian parliament earlier this month which killed more than a dozen people.

“The spilling of any pure blood will not go unanswered,” a Guards statement said.

Iran has been a key ally of President Assad, sending military advisers and thousands of “volunteer” troops.

Former US Navy Seal Robert O’Neill describes the moment he ‘shot dead Osama bin Laden’

 

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© Provided by Independent Print Limited image

The former US Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden has described the moment he claims he shot the al-Qaeda leader dead.

Robert O’Neill, who claims to have fired the fatal bullets, has for the first time published a detailed account of the mission that lead to the 9/11 mastermind being gunned down in a secure compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011.

In a dramatic extract from his new book, The Operator, published in the Mirror, the former Seal described the moment he fired two shots at Bin Laden and “split open” his head.

“I turned to the right and looked into an adjoining room,” he said. “Osama bin Laden stood near the entrance at the foot of the bed, taller and thinner than I’d expected, his beard shorter and hair whiter.

“He had a woman in front of him, his hands on her shoulders. In less than a second, I aimed above the woman’s right shoulder and pulled the trigger twice. Bin Laden’s head split open and he dropped. I put another bullet in his head. Insurance.”

Mr O’Neill also recounted the tense moments as the elite Seal team landed outside the compound under the cover of darkness. One of the helicopters carrying the unit was forced to make a crash landing, and the team initially failed to break into the compound.

“Within seconds of jumping from the chopper, the breacher attached a seven-foot charge of C-6 to the gate in front of us and blew it,” he said. “The metal gate peeled open like a tin can. Behind it was a solid brick wall. The breacher said: ‘Failed breach. This is bad.’ ‘No, this is good,’ I said. ‘That’s a fake door. That means he’s in there.’

“As we entered, it was all dawning on me: ‘Holy s***, we’re here, that’s Bin Laden’s house. This is so cool. We’re probably not going to live, but this is historic and I’m going to savour this.”

© Provided by Independent Print Limited The Seal team advanced through the three-floor compound, tying up any women and children they encountered. It later emerged that Bin Laden’s four wives and 17 of his children were living there.

At one stage, while making their way through the house, the team encountered Bin Laden’s youngest son, 23-year-old Khalid, on a landing, before he ran behind a banister.

He did not know that the intruders were American, so, O’Neill said, the Seal team leader whispered to him in Arabic, saying: “Khalid, come here.”

As he poked his head round the corner and said “What?”, he was shot in the head – a moment Mr O’Neill recounted in graphic detail.

“That was his final word”, he said. “The point man shot him in the face. The bullet entered above the chin and exited out the back of his head. Khalid dropped.”

Mr O’Neill also described the anxieties of the soldiers carrying out the raid. At one point, a Seal shot a woman who he said had jumped in front of a man he was firing at. “Am I going to be in trouble?”, the soldier asked his friend.

Mr O’Neill said that, after firing the shots that killed Bin Laden, his mind went blank until one of his colleagues, arriving in the room, turned to him and said: “You just killed Osama bin Laden.”

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Admiral, seven others charged with corruption in new ‘Fat Leonard’ indictment

Rear Adm. Bruce F. Loveless © Navy Rear Adm. Bruce F. Loveless The Justice Department unsealed a fresh indictment Tuesday charging eight current and former Navy officials — including an admiral — with corruption and other crimes in the “Fat Leonard” bribery case, escalating an epic scandal that has dogged the Navy for the past four years.

Among those charged were Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, a senior Navy intelligence officer based at the Pentagon, several Navy captains and a retired colonel from the Marine Corps. The charges cover a period of eight years, from 2006 through 2014.

The Navy personnel are accused of taking bribes in the form of lavish gifts, prostitutes and luxury hotel stays courtesy of Leonard Glenn Francis, a Singapore-based defense contractor who has already pleaded guilty to defrauding the Navy of tens of millions of dollars.

The indictment lists page after page of bribes allegedly consumed by the defendants — seven senior officers and one enlisted sailor — including $25,000 watches, $2,000 boxes of Cohiba cigars, $2,000 bottles of cognac and $600-per-night hotel rooms.

According to the charging documents, Francis also frequently sponsored wild sex parties for many officers on the USS Blue Ridge, the flagship of the Navy’s 7th Fleet, and other warships.

During a port visit by the Blue Ridge to Manila in May 2008, for example, five of the Navy officers attended a “raging multi-day party, with a rotating carousel of prostitutes,” at the Shangri-La Hotel, according to the indictment. The group allegedly drank the hotel’s entire supply of Dom Perignon champagne and rang up expenses exceeding $50,000, which Francis covered in full.

On another port visit by the Blue Ridge to Manila in February 2007, Francis allegedly hosted another sex party for officers in the MacArthur Suite of the Manila hotel. During the party, “historical memorabilia related to General Douglas MacArthur were used by the participants in sexual acts,” according to the indictment.

In exchange, according to federal prosecutors, the officials provided Francis with classified or inside information that enabled his firm, Glenn Marine Defense Asia, to gouge the Navy out of tens of millions of dollars.

In addition to Loveless, others charged in the indictment are three retired captains: David Lausman, Donald Hornbeck and David Newland; an active-duty captain, James Dolan; a retired Marine colonel, Enrico de Guzman; an active-duty commander, Stephen F. Shedd; and Robert Gorsuch, a retired chief warrant officer. None could immediately be reached for comment.

All were charged with offenses stemming from deployments to Asia while they were assigned to the 7th Fleet, based in Japan.

The indictment brings the total number of people charged with crimes in the Fat Leonard investigation to 27. Prosecutors say the case is still unfolding and that more than 200 people have come under scrutiny.