China on Nov. 19 again sent bombers and intelligence-gathering aircraft through international airspace between the islands of Okinawa and Miyako in the East China Sea, part of what Beijing has called continued “regular” exercises in the area.
Japan scrambled fighters in response, though no violation of Japanese airspace was detected.
Four H-6 bombers and two intelligence-gathering aircraft flew a route that took them through the Miyako Strait and back. The flight was believed to be the first through the passageway since August, when six Chinese bombers flew near Kansai’s Kii Peninsula for the first time.
China, under powerful President Xi Jinping, has embarked on a large-scale campaign of modernizing its military — especially its air force and navy — as it seeks to project power farther from its shores.
In a speech during a twice-a-decade Communist Party congress in October, Xi said China is aiming to become a “world-class” force that safeguards the country’s “territorial integrity.”
Beijing is embroiled in a dispute in the East China Sea with Tokyo over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyus in China.
However, the Defense Ministry in Tokyo said last month it had scrambled fighter jets through September — the first half of fiscal 2017 — a total of 287 times, down 120 times from the same time period in the previous year.
Despite the fall, the ministry documented an uptick in “unusual” flights, including the August drill in skies off the Kii Peninsula.
Last year, the Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighters 1,168 times, the most since records began being kept in 1958, besting the previous high of 944 — a figure that came at the height of the Cold War in 1984.
China’s military has also sent aircraft, including bombers and fighters, on long-range missions over the Bashi Channel and the Miyako Strait as well as through the Tsushima Strait from the East China Sea into the Sea of Japan and back.
In July, the Chinese military sent ships and planes through international but politically sensitive waters and airspace near Japan as part of its continuing push to hone its ability to operate further from its shores.
At the time, the Chinese Defense Ministry said Japan “should not make a fuss about nothing or over-interpret, it will be fine once they get used to it.”
Beijing has blasted Japan for hyping the flights, calling them part of “regular” drills, while Tokyo has said it will keep a steady eye on the “expanding and increasing” actions of the Chinese military in the area.
North Korea celebrated decades of hard work on its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile with a giant concert complete with pyrotechnics, an orchestra, and a simulation video of its missile destroying the entire U.S. mainland.
The concert not only featured the simulation video, but photos of the real missile tested by the North Koreans, providing missile analysts in the U.S. and elsewhere tons of hidden details to study.
Because North Korea remains one of the most closed-off nations on earth, the imagery it posts of its missiles is an excellent source of intelligence for civilian and military analysts alike.
Watch the clip below:
USA is destroyed by an HS-14- as seen at the triumph concert. Turn the music on, and let the North Koreans pimp the missile…. pic.twitter.com/dQMK9yOi8I
After polling members of the U.S. Air Force community, the service announced the name of the upcoming B-21 would be Raider on Sept. 19. Unlike the stealth bomber’s crowd sourced moniker, most of the flying branch’s planes get their official nicknames through a much less public process. In usual circumstances, some aircraft even get more than one.
On March 9, 2012, the Air Force announced Commando II as the formal name for the specialized MC-130J transport. For five months, crews had called the plane the Combat Shadow II.
“This is one of the first name changes we approved,” Keven Corbeil, a Pentagon official working at Air Force Materiel Command told Air Force reporters afterwards: “I think ‘Commando’ had historical [significance].”
The Air Force leads the shared office within Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base that approves all official aircraft and missile designations and their nicknames. According to records that We Are The Mighty obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the Air Force’s top commando headquarters felt both Combat Shadow II and Commando II had important significance. These were not the only names in the running either.
Starting in 1997, the flying branch had explored various options for replacing the MC-130E Combat Talon and MC-130P Combat Shadow. Both aircraft first entered service during the Vietnam War.
With the Combat Talons, aerial commandos could sneak elite troops and supplies deep behind enemy lines. The Air Force Special Operations Command primarily used flew the Combat Shadows to refuel specialized helicopters, though they could also schlep passengers and cargo into “denied areas.”
The Air Force’s new plane would take over both roles. For a time, the flying branch considered a plan to simply rebuild the older MC-130s into the upgraded versions.
More than a decade after the first studies for a replacement aircraft, the service hired Lockheed Martin to build all new MC-130s based on the latest C-130J aircraft. Compared to earlier C-130s, the J models had more powerful engines driving distinctive six-bladed propellers, upgraded flight computers and other electronics and additional improvements.
A basic C-130H transport has a top speed of just more than 360 miles per hour and can carry 35,000 pounds of equipment to destinations nearly 1,500 miles away. The regular cargo-hauling J variant can lug the same amount of gear more than 300 miles further with a maximum speed of more than 415 miles per hour.
So, on Oct 5, 2009, the Maryland-headquartered plane-maker started building the first of these MC-130Js. By the end of the month, the Air Force was already debating the plane’s name.
Four months earlier, Air Force Lt. Gen. Donald Wurster, then head of Air Force Special Operations Command offered up three possible nicknames: Combat Shadow II, Commando II and Combat Knife.
“The MC-130J mission will be identical to the Combat Shadow mission,” the top commando headquarters explained in an email. “The MC -130E already has its namesake preserved in the MC -130H, Combat Talon II.”
Keeping around well-known monikers is important both to Air Force history and public relations. The nicknames are supposed to both reflect the plane’s mission and help make it catchy during congressional hearings and interviews with the media.
Combat Shadow II would easily convey to lawmakers and the public that the plane was the successor to existing MC-130s. And otherwise, there wouldn’t be another Combat Shadow anytime soon.
Dating back to World War II and when the Air Force was still part of the U.S. Army, Commando II had different historic relevance. Largely obscured from common memory by the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, Curtis’ C-46 Commando was a vital contributor in the China, Burma India theater.
“The Commando was a workhorse in ‘flying The Hump’ (over the Himalaya Mountains), transporting desperately needed supplies from bases in India and Burma to troops in China,” the Air Force noted in the same message. “Only the C-46 was able to handle the adverse conditions with unpredictable weather, lack of radio aids and direction finders, engineering and maintenance nightmares due to a shortage of trained air and ground personnel and poorly equipped airfields often wiped out by monsoon rains.”
Though a Commando hadn’t flown in Air Force colors in more than four decades, the name fit with the air commando’s dangerous missions in unknown territory. In addition, the type had a storied history flying covert missions for the Central Intelligence Agency with contractors such as Air America.
The last option, Combat Knife, was a reference to the codename for the first unit to get the original MC-130E Combat Talon. In 1965, the Air Force created the element inside the 779th Troop Carrier Squadron at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina.
As the unit evolved, it took over responsibility for training all Combat Talon crews. On Nov. 21, 1970, one of the group’s MC-130s flew into North Vietnam as part of the famous raid aimed at freeing American troops at the Son Tay prison camp.
As Lockheed began building the MC-130Js, Air Force Special Operations Command decided to try and have it both ways. In another memo , the top commando headquarters proposed calling the aircraft set up to replace the MC-130Ps as Combat Shadow IIs, while the planes configured to take over for the MC-130Es would become Combat Talon IIIs.
The only problem was that there weren’t really two different versions. The entire point of the new plane was to have a common aircraft for both missions.
This solution wasn’t really what Air Force Special Operations Command wanted for the newest member of its fleet. As early as March 2009, the elite fliers had argued in favor of Commando II if they had to pick a single moniker.
“If the MC-130J will ultimately take on both the Talon and Shadow missions, then perhaps ‘Commando II’ is a nice compromise,” the vice commander of Air Force Special Operations Command Wurster in a hand-written note. “I like it better regardless!”
Censors redacted the officer’s name from the message.
On Oct. 25, 2011, Wurster’s successor Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel asked Air Force Materiel Commando to change the name to Commando II. Over the course of the debate, air commandos had also put Combat Arrow into the running.
Until 1974, Combat Arrow was the nickname applied to the Air Force’s Combat Talon element based in Europe. Combat Spear was the moniker for the element flying missions in Asia, particularly in Southeast Asia, during the same period. However, the MC-130W – a less intensive upgrade of the MC-130H Combat Talon II – had already gotten that nickname.
With new plans to eventually replace the Combat Talon IIs with MC-130Js as well, Fiel wanted “a new popular name that embodies the broader lineage of special operations force aircraft,” according to his message. “[Commando II] best reflects the multimission role of the aircraft and the units that will fly them.”
The officials responsible for naming agreed with Fiel’s request. They no doubt appreciated his suggestion of a new, single name.
Since then, the Air Force has clearly considered the matter settled. No one is likely interested in going through another drawn-out debate to change the MC-130J’s nickname anymore.
Provisions allowing Guard members to transfer some or all of their Post- 9/11 GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children are set to change, limiting the timeframe soldiers and airmen can transfer those benefits.
“You have to have a minimum of six years [in service] in order to be eligible to transfer benefits, and after 16 years you’re no longer eligible,” said Don Sutton, GI Bill program manager with the Army National Guard, describing the changes set to go into effect July 12, 2019.
The six-years-of-service rule isn’t new, said Sutton.
“You’ve always had to have a minimum of six years of service in order to transfer your Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits,” he said, adding the big change is the cutoff at 16 years of service.
“You’ll have a 10-year-window in which to transfer benefits,” he said, stressing that Guard members won’t lose the benefits after 16 years of service, just the ability to transfer them to their spouse, children or other dependents.
Soldiers and airmen from the Arizona National Guard.
“The Post-9/11 GI Bill and the transfer of benefits are two entirely different and separate programs,” said Sutton. “Even though soldiers may be ineligible to transfer benefits, they still have the Post-9/11 for their own use.”
For those interested in transferring their benefits, an additional four-year service obligation is still required.
“The [transfer of benefits] is a retention incentive,” said Sutton. “It’s designed to keep people in the service.”
Being able to transfer benefits to a dependent may have been perceived by some service members as an entitlement, said Sutton, adding that was one of the reasons for the timeframe change.
“In law, transferring those benefits has always been designed as a retention incentive,” he said.
The exact number of Guard members who may be impacted by the change wasn’t available, said Sutton, adding that among those who could be affected are those who didn’t qualify for Post- 9/11 GI Bill benefits until later in their career.
“We do have a small population of soldiers who are over 16 years [of service] before they did their first deployment,” he said.
Some Guard members who may have earned the benefits early on, but didn’t have dependents until later in their careers, may also be affected.
“They joined at 18 and now they’re 15, 16 years in and they get married or have kids later on in life,” said Sutton, who urged Guard members who plan on transferring their benefits to do so as soon as they are eligible.
“If you wait, you’re potentially going to miss out,” he said.
Some Guard members may have been waiting to transfer the benefits until their children reach college age.
Spc. Sabrina Day, 132nd Military Police Company, South Carolina National Guard, with her three-year-old son, Blake.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Brad Mincey)
“There sometimes are some misconceptions that they have to wait until their kids are college age or that they’re high school seniors in order to do the transfer,” said Sutton, adding there is no age requirement to transfer Post-9/ 11 benefits to dependent children.
“As soon as a child is born and registered in DEERS [Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System], you can transfer,” he said.
After that transfer has been completed, Guard members can still make changes to how those benefits are divided between dependents or which dependent receives those benefits.
“Once the transfer is executed, and you’ve agreed to that service obligation, you can add dependents in, and you can move months around between dependents,” said Sutton. “It’s just that initial transfer has to be done before you hit 16 years of service.”
However, there is one group of Guard members who will not be affected by any of the changes: those who have received the Purple Heart since Sept. 11, 2001.
“The only rule around transferring benefits that applies [to those individuals] is you have to still be in the service to transfer them.”
Regardless of status, Sutton reiterated that Guard members are better off transferring those benefits sooner rather than later.
“Transfer as soon as you’re eligible,” he said. “Don’t miss the boat because you’ve been eligible for 10 years and you just didn’t do it.”
With possibility of a huge troop surge to Afghanistan coming from the Trump administration, We Are The Mighty asked several OEF combat vets what they missed most from their time “in the suck.” Here’s what they had to say.
Getting a chance to put all your tough training to use and put rounds down range at the bad guys was freakin’ epic.
It was that fun. (images via Giphy)
7. Getting jacked
When you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere and have 24 different of high-calorie MREs to choose from, there’s no better way to pass the time than hitting a gym made of sand bags, 2x4s, and engineer sticks.
1,2,… 12 (images via Giphy)
8. Movie night
Huddling around a small laptop watching a comedy or “Full Metal Jacket” was considered a night out on the town. And we loved it.
And felt like you’re in a real theater… not really. (images via Giphy)
China has stopped major land-reclamation in the South China Sea but is continuing to work on facilities it has already built there, according to the US Defense Department’s annual report on Chinese military activity, which noted that China could soon add nuclear power plants to the mix.
After adding 3,200 acres of land to seven reefs and islands it occupies, China hasn’t done substantial artificial-island creation since late 2015, but at three of those outposts, the Pentagon report said, “Construction of aviation facilities, port facilities, fixed-weapons positions, barracks, administration buildings, and communication facilities at each of the three outposts was underway throughout 2017.”
“The outposts may be capable of supporting military operation in the Spratly Islands and throughout the region, but no permanent large-scale air or naval presence has been observed,” according to the report.
Other countries have disputed China’s claims in the South China Sea — through which an estimated one-third of global shipping travels — and an international tribunal has rejected China’s claims to islands there.
Aerial view of Woody and Rocky Islands in the South China Sea.
While China has said those projects are meant to improve the lives of personnel at those outposts, the work may be part of an effort to assert de facto control of the area and to maintain a more flexible military presence in order to boost its operational and deterrence abilities, the Pentagon report said.
“China’s plans to power these islands may add a nuclear element to the territorial dispute,” the report added. “In 2017, China indicated development plans may be underway to power islands and reefs in the typhoon-prone South China Sea with floating nuclear power stations.”
State-owned China National Nuclear Power said in late 2017 that it had set up a joint venture with several energy and ship-building firms to boost the country’s nuclear-power capabilities as a part of Beijing’s aim to “become a strong maritime power.”
That announcement came about a year after the state-run China Security Journal said Beijing could construct up to 20 floating nuclear power plants to “speed up the commercial development” in the South China Sea.
Floating nuclear power plants could bolster China’s nuclear-energy capacity and support overseas activities by providing electricity and desalinated water to isolated outposts.
“China sees securing the ability to develop marine nuclear tech as a manifestation of its maritime power status,” Collin Koh, a military expert at Singapore’s Nanyang Technology University, told The South China Morning Post in 2017. “It will enhance Beijing’s staying power and assert its claims, as military garrisons and civilian personnel living on those remote outposts would be able to sustain themselves better [and therefore stay longer].”
A Chinese Coast Guard ship patrols the South China Sea about 130 miles off the coast of Vietnam.
(Screenshot / Reuters TV)
Experts have said that the technology for floating plants, which provide about one-quarter of the energy produced by onshore plants, is not yet mature but that major powers are pursuing their development because of the mobility they provide.
Russia has already deployed its own floating nuclear reactor. In May 2018, the Akademik Lomonsov, the first nuclear power plant of its kind, arrived at the port of Murmansk on the Barents Sea ahead of a voyage to Russia’s far east, where it is to provide power for an isolated town on the Bering Strait.
While Russia has decades of experience operating nuclear-powered icebreakers, activists have criticized the plan. Greenpeace has dubbed the plant the “nuclear Titanic” and a “floating Chernobyl.”
“There are serious challenges unique to regulating the operational safety of floating nuclear power plants due to the novelty of the technology, the difficult operating conditions, and the inherent safety limitations of these plants,” like a higher chance of incidents due to collisions or capsizing, Viet Phuong Nguyen, a nuclear researcher at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, wrote for The Diplomat in early 2018
In light of civil-liability issues related to potential accidents with these plants and safety risks stemming from piracy or terrorism, “the best case scenario” for the region would be China reconsidering the plan or delaying the deployment, he wrote.
But China’s plan to test the plants at sea before 2020 makes that scenario unlikely, he said, so Southeast Asian countries “should soon seek at least a communication channel with China on how to exchange information on the safety of the fleet and the regulation of its operation, while not compromising the territorial claims of each country over the islands in the South China Sea.”
Featured image: the floating Russian nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s a question that has lasted as long as the Selective Service debate: Should every American serve for a year or two before entering the work force or pursuing higher education?
Arguments have been made for both sides of the case since the last draft in 1973, though the pro-service cause may have just found their strongest and most vocal ally yet — former Joint Special Operations Command chief Stanley McChrystal. Though McChrystal has largely stayed out of the spotlight since his retirement in 2010, he has still been very vocal about this concept, recently penning an op-ed for Time Magazine on the value of national service.
In his article, McChrystal says that the time is ripe for the country to come together to institute a mandatory year of paid national service for young Americans aged 18-28 years. A yearlong commitment would not only instill the values of accountability and responsibility towards citizenship, but will also develop character and leadership traits, he argues.
The retired general does stress, however, that national service should not be directed entirely towards the military. He feels that an open choice between different service organizations needs to exist, allowing for hundreds of thousands of young Americans to have a positive impact beginning in their communities, and resulting in progress on a national level.
This is a view seemingly very common among military veterans, a number of whom have gone on record to discuss the merits of a year of service. It also isn’t the first time McChyrstal has promoted a year of compulsory national service. In 2016, he urged candidates participating in the 2016 presidential race to consider making this idea a reality, and in 2012, the former special operations chief gave a speech to Harvard University on the same topic.
McChyrstal himself is no stranger to service, having joined the Army in 1976 after graduating from West Point. Born into a military family, he rose through the ranks, serving with regular infantry units, on a Special Forces “A-Team”, and eventually the 75th Ranger Regiment, prior to taking command of JSOC in 2003.
Described by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as “perhaps the finest warrior and leader of men in combat [he] had ever met,” McChrystal is easily a soldier’s soldier, known for his willingness to be on the frontlines instead of an air conditioned office stateside. His career in the Army ended in 2010 with a truncated stint as the command of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
A national service commitment isn’t exactly anything new, especially with many European and Asian nations. Israel and Switzerland are two of the most notable examples, with both countries mandating by law that youth of a certain age are required to register with the military or with a civil service body for a predetermined term. In both countries, the commitment ranges from a year to two years, though some decide to stay around and build a career out of their service terms.
Switzerland, in particular, has utilized conscription to staff its military for decades by having conscripts report for a 260-day service period upon reaching the age of majority. Recruits can choose to serve their entire commitment in 300 continuous days, or train in periods throughout the year, somewhat similar to the National Guard and various branch reserves in the United Sates.
However, should a recruit decide that military service isn’t for them, they can elect to join the country’s civil service as a paid employee for a 390-day period.
Currently, the national year of service topic has yet to be brought up by the White House or Congress, though it still remains a talking point for many, including McChrystal and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a retired Navy attack pilot.
Until meaningful discourse on the subject arises, the retired general and the sitting Senator have worked together to sponsor efforts to afford military veterans and civilian volunteers more opportunities to voluntarily serve their countries in various civil organizations.
Was it ransom? That is the question that is now being asked as a Wall Street Journal report of a $400 million payment to Iran emerges. The money, reportedly Swiss francs and Euros that were provided by European countries, was delivered in pallets of cold, hard cash via unmarked cargo plane as four Americans were released back in January. Three of the Americans were flown out of Iran by the Swiss, while the fourth returned to the United States on his own.
Supposedly, the money was delivered as part of a $1.7 billion settlement surrounding an arms deal made before the fall of the Shah of Iran. Among the big components of that deal were guided-missile destroyers and F-16 fighters. The destroyers later were taken into service with the United States Navy as the Kidd-class destroyers, all of whom were named for admirals killed in action during World War II. The timing of that settlement, though, raised questions about whether the settlement was cover for a ransom payment. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, told The Wall Street Journal, “This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures.”
Cotton’s comments were echoed by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who served for over two decades in the Naval Reserve. “Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk. While Americans were relieved by Iran’s overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House’s policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages, including Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, and Reza Shahini,” he said.
The senators’ comments seem to be backed by comments on Iranian state media by a high-ranking commander of the Basij, an Iranian militia force, who was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.”
Since the first payment in January, the three Americans mentioned in Senator Kirk’s statement have reportedly been seized by the Khameni regime, leading some to speculate as to whether or not Iran is seeking leverage to force the release of other frozen assets. One portion of those assets, $2 billion frozen in 2009, was awarded to the victims of Iranian-sponsored attacks in a case that was finally resolved by the Supreme Court.
The prime minister of the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine was killed in August 2018 by a bomb placed in a chandelier or floor lamp, according to Kommersant, a Russian media outlet.
Kommersant reported that an explosive devise was placed in a chandelier or floor lamp and ignited by a telephone call.
The perpetrator was most likely near the cafe and saw Zakharchenko enter before he or she detonated the bomb, Kommersant reported. The cafe is apparently owned by a DPR security official and was thoroughly guarded, raising questions of an inside job.
Multiple people were later arrested near the cafe in connection with the bombing, including “Ukrainian saboteurs,” Russia’s Interfax reported.
“Read nothing into [these arrests of Ukrainian saboteurs] until we know more details,” Aric Toler, a researcher with Bellingcat, tweeted.
Kyiv and Moscow have both been accused of several assassinations in the Donbas and Ukraine as a whole since the war began in 2014.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A US MQ-9 Reaper drone aircraft was shot down over the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on October 1, US officials confirmed on Monday.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed to have shot down the unmanned aircraft over the Jadar area on the northern outskirts of Sanaa. A military official was quoted by the Houthi-controlled SABA state news agency saying the army and various militias brought it down, though it was not immediately clear what weapons were used.
It crashed on the outskirts of the capital around 11 a.m. local time, according to Reuters. Video posted on Twitter by journalist and author Babak Taghvaee shows the drone hurtling toward the ground while on fire and captures a crowd gathering around the wreckage.
There were no reports of casualties from the crash, and Houthi rebels loaded what was left of the drone on to a pickup truck, according to Reuters.
The MQ-9 Reaper is a long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft mostly used by the US Air Force.
It is primarily used for precision-strike and close-air-support missions and is capable of carrying Hellfire missiles and other guided bombs. It is also deployed for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. It has a flight ceiling of up to 50,000 feet and a range of 1,150 miles.
US Army Maj. Earl Brown, a spokesman for US Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, confirmed that a Reaper drone was shot down in western Yemen. Brown provided few details, saying the incident was “under investigation.”
The Houthi rebels, who have allied with ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh and are backed by Iran, control much of northern Yemen, including the capital.
They are fighting a Saudi-led coalition — which includes Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait and is backed by intelligence, weapons, and logistics from the US — that is trying to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The US has increased its refueling support for Saudi aircraft since the conflict began in early 2015.
The Saudi-led coalition has been accused of violating international law with its bombing in Yemen. Houthi forces or their partners may have also committed war crimes.
More than 10,000 people have been killed during the conflict. Two million people have been displaced by the fighting, and 750,000 people are thought to have contracted cholera.
The US is also fighting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in the region, launching raids and drone strikes against the group’s militants. It’s not known whether the drone downed on Sunday was supporting the Saudi-led coalition or targeting Al Qaeda fighters.
A group of Mossad agents were tasked with smuggling thousands of Jewish refugees in Ethiopia, known as Beta Israelis, from Ethiopia to Israel in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Thousands of Ethiopian Jews were stranded in Sudan, a Muslim-majority nation hostile to Israel. The agents had to smuggle the refugees across Sudan, then sailed across the Red Sea or airlifted to Israel.
And because Sudan and Israel were enemies, both the Ethiopian Jews and Mossad agents had to keep their identifies hidden.
An unidentified senior agent involved in the mission told the BBC:
“A couple of Mossad guys went down to Sudan looking for possible landing beaches. They just stumbled across this deserted village on the coast, in the middle of nowhere.
“For us it was a godsend. If we could get hold of this place and do it up, we could say we’re running a diving village, which would give us a reason for being in Sudan and furthermore for roaming around near the beach.”
Arous tourist village, located on the Sudan’s east coast, consisted of 15 bungalows, a kitchen, and dining room that opened out to a beach and the Red Sea.
The Sudanese International Tourist Corporation built the site in 1972 but never opened it because there was no electricity, water supply, or a road nearby.
Posing as employees of a Swiss company, Mossad agents rented the site for $320,000 (£225,000) in the late 1970s. They secured deals for water and fuel, and smuggled air-conditioning units and water sports gear into Sudan to build the diving resort.
An undated brochure of the resort boasted of “attractive, air-conditioned bungalows with fully-equipped bathrooms,” “fine meals,” and a variety of water sports gear available to rent.
Mossad agents posed as the resort’s managers, and female agents were put in charge of day-to-day operations to make the hotel look less suspicious. They also hired 15 local staff — none of whom knew the true identities of their managers and colleagues.
Hotel guests included Egyptian soldiers, British SAS troops, foreign diplomats, and Sudanese government officials — none of whom, too, knew of the true identity of their hosts.
Gad Shimron, a Mossad agent who worked at the resort, told the BBC: “We introduced windsurfing to Sudan. The first board was brought in — I knew how to windsurf, so I taught the guests. Other Mossad agents posed as professional diving instructors.”
He added: “By comparison to the rest of Sudan, we offered Hilton-like standards, and it was such a beautiful place, it really looked like something out of the Arabian Nights. It was unbelievable.”
The diving storeroom, which was out of bounds, contained hidden radios that the agents used to keep in contact with their headquarters in Tel Aviv.
The Mossad agents would leave at night for their rescue operations from time to time, telling local staff that they’d be out of town for a few days.
They would then drive to a refugee camp hundreds of miles away where Beta Israelis were waiting, and bring them back to a beach near Arous. They then transferred the refugees to Israeli SEAL teams, who took them to a waiting navy ship, and on to Israeli territory.
After one of the operations almost got busted, Israel decided to send jets to covertly airlift the Ethiopians to Israel instead.
The agents abandoned the resort in 1985 after years of running it. The military junta in charge of country at the time started scouring the country for Israeli spies, and Mossad’s head in Israel ordered the agents to leave.
The Mossad agents evacuated the resort in a hurry, while guests were still staying at the hotel, an unidentified agent told the BBC.
“They would have woken up and found themselves alone in the desert,” they said. “The local staff were there, but no-one else — the diving instructor, the lady manager and so on, all the Caucasians had disappeared.”
The agents transferred at least 7,000 Ethiopians to Israel over the course of their operations at Arous.
Travel writer Paul Clammer wrote in his his 2005 guide to Sudan: “Arous Resort was closed when I visited… Though the colourful, relatively fresh paint gave them a cheerful look, the whole place was in disarray: Beach bungalows had toppled roofs, quads were rusty and jet skis left unattended, all suggesting the place was abandoned in a hurry.”
Arous’ website, referenced in some travel guides, is now defunct. Business Insider tried calling two phone numbers linked to the resort on April 19, 2018, but the lines were dead.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A pair of skydivers nearly had an unfortunate run-in with two US Air Force F-15 fighter jets in the skies above southern England earlier this year, a British air safety board reports.
The US fighters out of RAF Lakenheath, home to the US 48th Fighter Wing, were flying at 345 mph above Cambridgeshire on April 17, 2019. Above Chatteris airfield, a popular skydiving location the fighter pilots were not aware was active, two parachutists were in freefall at roughly 120 mph, Stars and Stripes reported, citing a UK Airprox Board report released this past summer.
The skydivers captured video footage of the fighters passing beneath them.
“The Board was shown Go-Pro footage filmed from the helmet of one of the parachutists and could clearly see the F15s passing beneath,” the report read, further explaining that “once the parachutists had seen the F15s there was very little they could do to avoid the situation, having no control over their speed or direction whilst in freefall.”
An F-15E Strike Eagle.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason Couillard)
There was a debate about how close the fighters actually came to the skydivers, Airprox explained, adding that the board eventually concluded that “safety had been reduced much below the norm.” The pilots did not see the parachutists, nor were they aware of any planned jumps.
Chatteris airfield, according to the Airprox report, notifies Lakenheath every morning of its planned activities. The board agreed that “there was very little more that Chatteris could have done from an operational perspective to prevent” this near-miss, which was the result of problems both on the ground and in the air.
In response to this incident, the 48th Fighter Wing is briefing crews again and reminding everyone of the need to steer clear of the Chatteris skydiving site.
An Air Force F-15C Eagle.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)
RAF Lakenheath is “using this incident to reinforce the vital importance of situational awareness and attention to detail for all of our air traffic controllers and aircrew,” Col. Will Marshall, commander of the 48th Fighter Wing, told Stars and Stripes.
“UK airspace is incredibly complex and often congested, and the safety of our aircrew as well as those we share the skies with is our number one priority,” he added. The Airprox report noted that prior to the near-miss with the skydivers, the F-15s had been forced to change course to avoid a KC-135 refueling tanker that was determined to be “on a collision course with the formation.”
It was apparently that course change, combined with various other influencing factors, that sent the fighters over Chatteris and put the skydivers in danger.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.