Tag Archives: Yemen

Yemen SEAL Raid Likely Led to New Restrictions for Electronics on Flights

Leaks and Media Reports Suggest Laptop Ban Linked to Jan. 28 SEAL Raid on Yemen.

Unattributed quotes from “three intelligence sources” link evidence gathered during the U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Yemen on Jan. 28, 2017 with the new ban on electronic devices including laptops in the passenger cabins of some airline flights.

Journalists Jana Winter and Clive Irving have published reports attributing the anonymous media leaks in at least one media outlet, the Daily Beast. It is possible that other media outlets will report on the connection between the events.

Winter and Clive wrote, “Information from the raid shows Al Qaeda’s successful development of compact, battery bombs that fit inside laptops or other devices believed to be strong enough to bring down an aircraft, the sources said.”

Winter and Clive did not name any sources for their report. It is an occasional practice in the intelligence community to intentionally “leak” reports for publication, and then measure public response to the leaks to make decisions about additional, more official media releases.

CNN reported that a Somali passenger jet was damaged by a “sophisticated” laptop bomb that got past X-ray machines at the Mogadishu airport (Somali Police Authority via CNN)

One U.S. Navy special operations team member, Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, was killed during the January 28 raid on the Al Qaeda installation in the Yakla Region of Baida Province, Yemen. A U.S. Marine MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft from the USS Makin was destroyed by a U.S. airstrike after it was abandoned on the ground following damage from a hard landing in the operation.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security officially cited the Oct. 31, 2015 destruction of the Russian MetroJet (Kogalymavia) flight 9268 as a bomb over the Sinai Desert after departing Sharm El Sheikh International Airport, Egypt. Homeland Security officials also named the Djibouti-bound Daallo Airlines flight D3159 damaged on Feb. 2, 2016 as being linked to the reasons for the recent changes in airline security. These incidents likely contributed to the motive for the U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Yemen on Jan. 28, 2017 and this subsequent recent change in airline security.

In the Russian Metrojet attack a laptop bomb was suspected while a bomb carried by a man traveling in a wheelchair damaged the Daallo flight. The Daallo flight bomber detonated his bomb, possibly contained in a laptop, cell phone or his wheelchair, near the starboard wing root of the aircraft. The bomber presumably felt the most structural damage could be done near the wing root, intending to detach the wing in flight. The Daallo Airlines Airbus A321-111 survived the attack and returned to Aden Adde International Airport in Somalia, Mogadishu for an emergency landing.

An additional flight, EgyptAir flight 804 from Paris to Cairo, crashed on May 19, 2016 over the Mediterranean, killing all 66 passengers and crews. Numerous subsequent reports indicated that traces of explosives were found on the bodies of victims from the flight recovered at sea.

Major media outlets like CNN and the BBC have not yet reported on any alleged connection between the U.S raid in Yemen on January 28 and the changes in airline security. Over a month ago David Sanger, writing for The New York Times, reported, “It’s hard to call this [raid] much of a success yet, because we don’t know what the value was of the information they were trying to exploit, which came mostly from computers and cell phones. And from everything we have heard, they haven’t had a chance to assess that yet.” That report was published in the New York Times on February 2. These emerging reports and new airline restrictions may suggest the intelligence gathered in the raid may now have yielded some actionable outcomes.

Top image: Damage from a bomb detonated on board Daallo Airlines Flight 159 Over Somalia on February 2, 2016 (credit: GoobjoNews).

 

What has emerged so far about the deadly U.S. Special Operations on Al Qaeda in Yemen

Yemen Raid by U.S. Navy Task Force Blue Yields Intelligence on Terror Operations, U.S. President Trump Flies to Dover AFB for Arrival of Fallen SEAL Remains.

Additional information has emerged about the U.S. Special Operations Command raid on an Al Qaeda installation in the Yakla Region of Baida Province, Yemen that took place over the weekend.

While details of the raid remain classified ABC13 News Now reporter Elise Brown broke a story earlier today when she reported that a source told ABC News, “It was as though Al Qaeda knew the SEALs were coming, and were ready.”

U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, 36, from Illinois was reported as killed in action during the operation. Three other U.S. personnel were wounded during the raid and three more were reported injured during a hard landing in a U.S. Marine MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. That aircraft was intentionally destroyed by U.S forces on the ground following the crash to prevent its recovery by adversaries.

While it is likely the raid was conducted by a composite task force of U.S. special operations personnel, CPO Owens was a member of an East Coast U.S. Navy SEa, Air, Land (SEAL) team originating from Little Creek, Virginia. Media outlets have reported that Owens was a member of the specially trained Task Force Blue often referred to as “SEAL Team Six” in mass media.

The U.S. Navy’s Task Force Blue is comprised of “Squadrons” similar to other counter-terror special operations units. Red, Gold, Blue and Silver Squadrons are operational “raid” squadrons and are often assisted and/or accompanied by members of Black Squadron, an intelligence gathering and analysis asset. It is not known which squadron CPO Owens was attached to.

Official statements reflect that the primary objective of the raid was to seize physical intelligence assets such as electronic media, computer hard drives and documents that will provide a detailed insight into terrorist planning for future Al Qaeda operations. In an official release to the Reuters News Agency the U.S. Defense Department told reporters the raid provided, “Information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots.”

According to reporting by Mohammed El Sherif in Cairo for Reuters, “The local al Qaeda unit [in Yemen] organized the Charlie Hebdo magazine attack in Paris in 2015 and has repeatedly tried to down U.S. airliners.”

The raid resulted in a “one hour firefight” according to local reports on the ground. While reports of casualties have varied most media outlets suggest between 17-30 indigenous personnel, some reported to be Al Qaeda members, were killed on the ground during the raid.

The weekend raid by U.S special operations forces was planned “well in advance” based on intelligence gathered during previous months. Timing for the raid was specific as one source inside the U.S. military speaking on conditions of anonymity reported, “There were operational reasons why it happened when it did.” A contributing factor may have been the moon phase. The raid happened during a new moon, a period when lunar illumination at the target area is at its lowest providing maximum darkness.

Approximate location of the raid (Google Earth screenshot)

Satellite images of the region show terrain that is hilly surrounding encampments and small cities at elevations usually below 1500 feet. This suggests high altitude vortex ring state was not a factor in the crash of the MV-22 Osprey during the raid.

Vortex Ring State was a potential factor in the crash of a U.S. Special Operations helicopter at the beginning of Operation Neptune Spear, the raid to capture Osama Bin Laden on May 2, 2011. Vortex ring state happens when rotary wing aircraft, such as the U.S. Marine MV-22 Ospreys used in this raid, settle into their own rotor wash and descend rapidly as a result of losing lift.

Weather in the region during the raid indicated low overnight temperatures of 70° Fahrenheit with visibility under the new moon phase of “8 miles” with moderate humidity and winds below 10 mph. These, along with the lighting conditions of the dark moon, were good conditions for the operation as reported.

Several media outlets have reported that the raid was launched from a U.S. Navy ship south of Yemen in the Gulf of Aden.

Additional air support was likely provided by U.S. Marine AH-1Z Viper gunships deployed from the same ship. Some local media reports on the ground said the gunships were “U.S. Apaches”. This is unlikely since the raid originated from a shipboard location according to reports.

The names of ships in the region are generally a matter of operational security but analysis through elimination suggests that if the raid originated from an assault ship, it could have been the USS Kearsarge, Bataan, Bon Homme Richard, Iwo Jima or Makin Island. Online sources account for the location of the assault ships USS Wasp, Essex and Boxer.

Another interesting seaborne asset recently reported in the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet area of operations is the unusually configured USS Ponce (AFSB(1)-15). The USS Ponce is an interesting possibility in this case since it has undergone modifications to support special operations, has a helicopter landing deck and other features for special operations. The USS Ponce is also used for operational testing of the shipboard Laser Weapon System (LaWS), a weapon used to repel small craft from attacking a larger vessel.

A rigid-hull inflatable boat manned by members of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 12 enters the well deck of Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15). EODMU-12 is assigned to Commander, Task Group (CTG) 56.1, which provides mine countermeasures, explosive ordnance disposal, salvage-diving, counter-terrorism, and force protection for the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR). Ponce, formerly designated as an amphibious transport dock ship, was converted and reclassified to fulfill a long-standing U.S. Central Command request for an AFSB to be located in its area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Raegen/Released)

Also recently reported in the area as support assets are the guided-missile destroyers USS Nitze (DDG-94) and the USS Mason (DDG-87) along with the seaborne forward staging base USS Ponce. These vessels were reported operational on station off Yemen near the Bab el-Mandeb strait that connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden in September. If they remain in this region they may have contributed to the operation.

U.S. special operations in Yemen have come into focus following an NBC News report on May 6, 2016 that quoted U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, as saying that, “A small number of American military personnel are in Yemen providing limited support to the Yemeni government and Arab coalition battling al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”. This contradicts a previous report that stated “American forces have not conducted any special operations in Yemen since December 2014.”

Finally, in late breaking news Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump made an unannounced visit to Dover AFB in Delaware for the return of the remains of U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens killed in Sunday’s raid in Yemen. President Tump flew to Dover AFB on Marine One with his daughter Ivanka Trump and U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware.


U.S. President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump walk toward Marine One while departing from the White House, on Feb. 1, 2017, en route to Dover Air Force Base. (Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

U.S. MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft crash lands in Yemen during Special OPS raid on Al Qaeda

A U.S. Marine Corps Osprey that was supporting the first known counterterrorism operation under President Trump crash-landed in Yemen. It was later destroyed by U.S. raid.

Early in the morning on Jan. 29, one American Special Operations commando was killed and three others were injured in a fierce firefight with Al Qaeda fighters targeted by a predawn raid against the AQ headquarters in Yemen.

The surprise attack was carried out by commandos from the U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 in Bayda Province who killed 14 Qaeda militants in what is the first confirmed anti-terror operation under Trump presidency.

It’s not clear what aircraft were supporting the raid; what has been confirmed is that a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft called in to evacuate the wounded American soldiers crash landed, injuring 2 service members (1 according to other sources).

The tilt-rotor aircraft was intentionally destroyed in place by a U.S. raid once it was determined that it could not leave the crash landing site.

This was not the first time a U.S. helo supporting a Special Operation crash lands.

On May 2, 2011, one of the helicopters used by the U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 in the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden crash landed near OBL’s compound at Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Military on board the helicopter escaped safely on another chopped while the downed one was destroyed leaving only few parts near the Bin Laden’s compound.

Unfortunately for them, those parts didn’t seem to belong to any known type.

In particular, the tail rotor had an unusual cover that could be anything from an armor plate to a noise reduction cover sheltering the motion-control technology used to input low-frequency variations of rotor blade pitch-angle, as tested by NASA; the blades were flatter, and not wing-shaped, whereas the paint job was extremely similar to the kind of anti-radar paint and Radar-Absorbing Material coating used by the most modern stealth fighters: nothing common to either Black Hawks, Chinooks or Apaches helicopters: that crash landed unveiled a Stealth Black Hawk (or MH-X).

Back to the Sunday raid, it’s worth noticing it was the first carried out with commandos, considered that the U.S. has typically relied on drone strikes to target AQ militants in the region (the latest of those were launched each day from Jan. 20 to 22 killing five terrorists). However, it seems this time U.S. troops seized militants laptops, smartphones and other material that was worth the rare ground assault against Al Qaeda.

Top image: file photo of a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22s during an exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California (USMC)

 

Watch a US guided missile destroyer launch Tomahawk cruise missiles against Houthi rebels radar sites in Yemen

The guided missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) launched a TLAM strike against three coastal radar sites in Houthi-controlled territory on Yemen’s Red Sea coast.

On Oct. 13, at around 4AM LT, the U.S. Navy has launched a retaliatory strike against coastal Houthi-controlled radar sites in Yemen, after three American vessels, USS Nitze and USS Mason guided-missile destroyers, and the Austing-class USS Ponce Afloat Forward Staging Base (formerly, amphibious transport dock) were attacked twice in just three days in international waters off Yemen.

“Due to hostile acts, continuing and imminent threat of force, and multiple threats to vessels in the Bab-al Mandeb Strait, including U.S. naval vessels, Nitze struck the sites, which were used to attack U.S. ships operating in international waters, threatening freedom of navigation. Nitze is deployed to the 5th Fleet area of operations to support maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.”

The footage below shows USS Nitze fire Tomahawk cruise missiles against Iran-backed Houthi targets that have threatened attacks against ships in the Red Sea.

The three U.S. warships have been operating in the vicinity of Bab el-Mandeb following the attack on the UAE-flagged high-speed transport vessel HSV Swift severely damaged after being attacked by the rebels with what is believed to be a Chinese C-802 anti-ship missile possibly provided by Iran.

The U.S. retaliatory attack came hours after USS Ponce and Mason were attacked for the second time in four days on Wednesday. In the first encounter, on Sunday, the guided-missile destroyer fired three missiles, two Standard Missile-2s (SM-2s) and a single Evolved Seasparrow Missile (ESSM) to intercept the two missiles that were launched against the American vessels at 7 PM LT. In addition to the missiles, USS Mason used its Nulka anti-ship missile decoy.

Little is known about the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) used in the attack.

The Tomahawk IV can hit at a range of 1,000 miles and can adjust its flight path to pursuit moving targets. Guidance can come from various platforms, including ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) planes and tactical aircraft.

In an interview given at the end of 2013, PACAF commander General Hawk Carlisle said 5th gen. aircraft will provide forward target identification for strike missiles launched from a surface warship or submerged submarine, in the future. The PACAF commander described the ability of the F-22s, described as “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich aircraft,” to provide forward targeting through their sensors for submarine based Tomahawks. It’s not known whether the U.S. Air Force has already implemented this capability, though.

The missile, launched through a Vertical Launch System (VLS), is guided by an operator that can redirect the TLAM towards pre-planned alternate targets, or bring the missile to a “holding area” where it can wait for a new target of opportunity. It also features an anti-jam GPS receiver for enhanced accuracy. By means of data link, the RGM-109E missile can download imagery and health status messages to the control station so as to give the operator the ability to change the mission in accordance with the battlefield and cruise conditions.

Salva

Salva

Video shows Saudi F-15s intercept Iranian plane en route to Yemen with aid

Royal Saudi Air Force F-15s intercepted an Iranian A310 carrying aid to Yemen.

A new video, recorded with a mobile phone and released by the Iranian Press TV, shows RSAF F-15s intercepting an Iranian Mahan Air Airbus 310 on its way to deliver humanitarian aid in Yemen.

According to the Iranians, the airliner had the required diplomatic clearances to fly to Yemen via Oman’s airspace but it was intercepted and escorted by at least a couple of armed Saudi F-15s.

Photos posted by Tasnim News show that the F-15s involved in the intercept were armed with AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles (most probably four) and carried three drop tanks to extend their endurance.

Based on the reports, the RSAF F-15Cs radioed the Airbus 310 that it could not land at Sana’a International Airport and later urged the Iranian aircrew to land at another airport “belonging to Saudi Arabia.”

However the Iranian pilots ignored the warning from Saudi jets escorting the civil plane from close distance and continued to Sana’a but they were forced to turn back as the airport was hit by a Saudi air strike which made the runway unserviceable.

According to Reuters, Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, the airport was bombed after the Iranian aircraft refused to coordinate with the coalition and the pilot ignored orders to turn back.

The incident comes days after another Iranian airplane reportedly carrying aid and medicine was prevented to enter the Yemeni airspace by RSAF jets in combat air patrol.

On Mar. 25, Saudi Arabia launched the first air strike on targets located in neighbouring Yemen to counter the Houthi offensive on Aden, the provisional capital town of the internationally recognized (yet domestically contested) Yemeni government.