US Task Force Smoking Gun smuggles weapons to Syria: Serbia files (part 2)
New leaked documents expose for the first time a secret US Special Operations Command unit code named Task Force Smoking Gun. It has been deployed in Croatia since 2017 and tasked with diverting tons of arms and ammunition from Europe to Syria.
Recently I anonymously received explosive documents about arms deals between the US Government and the Serbian state owned-arms manufacturer Krusik, including contracts, e-mails, internal memos, photos, delivery schedules, and packing lists of weapons with lot numbers and their buyers. Among the leaked documents I also received scanned passports of arms dealers and government officials from the US. They have visited Krusik to buy weapons for the Pentagon Train and Equip program for militants in Syria.
Task Force Smoking Gun
The Pentagon deployed Task Force Smoking Gun to Croatia in 2017 in support of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Train and Equip program in Syria. According to leaked e-mails, Task Force Smoking Gun has been operating an arms depot in the Croatian city of Podhum near Rijeka Airport from where Pentagon-commissioned American carriers (Atlas Air and Kalitta Air) have transported the military cargo to the US air base Al Udeid in Qatar.
The weapons originate from Serbia. The buyers are four American companies which have been contracted by the US Government to supply non US standard weapons (weapons not in use by the US Army) – Sierra Four Industries, Orbital ATK, Global Ordnance, and UDC.
Leaked passports reveal which US Government officials and private contractors have ordered, inspected and accepted the weapons. The same names have been listed by the Pentagon as recipients of a US Central Command award in recognition of their support to the Syrian Train and Equip program – the US program for arming militants in Syria (see the document libraries below).
The British broker
“We have received the attached list of items for the US Government. The request is for USG Special Operations Command, end user Iraqi Ministry of Defence (via Kuwait)”, writes a British arms dealer, Lynn Timckle, director of the UK-based Imber Enterprises Limited in a leaked e-mail to the Serbian arms manufacturer Krusik. The e-mail dated 21 January 2016 includes the US Government list of weapons that need to be purchased from arms factories across Eastern Europe.
Lynn Timckle asks Krusik to make an offer of its ability to deliver mortar shells as soon as possible. Krusik offers 2,450 pcs. of mortar shells 60 mm M73 HE, 23,000 pcs. of mortar shells 82 mm M74 HE, and 27,000 pcs. of mortar shells 120 mm M62P8 HE.
Imber Enterprises was established on March 2011 by Lynn Timcke predominantly to supply defence products and provide support services to Governments and Ministries worldwide, including Eastern European weapons, according to information provided by ADS (the British defense industry organisation which member is Imber Enterprises).
The leaked correspondence between Krusik and the British broker reveals that the buyer is an American company, Sierra Four Industries, but the payment for these weapons will not be made by the American company, but by a British company which has no role in the deal other than to pay – Charles Kendall & Partners Ltd., UK. Krusik explains that it will need permission from the Serbian Finance Ministry. Furthermore, Krusik expresses its concern about another legal obligation – the draft End User Certificate states that the weapons will be delivered to Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania, and according to that it should be clearly stated that the weapons will be used in Romania as well as the precise use of these weapons.
Nevertheless, none of these concerns are taken into consideration. Instead, the president of Sierra Four Industries Robert Grimmer sends an e-mail confirming that the money will be transferred to Krusik by his British financial partner Charles Kendall & Partners Ltd., UK without further explanation as to why the buyer is the US Government, through its contractor Sierra Four Industries, USA, but the payment comes from a private company in the UK.
Another interesting detail in the leaked documents is the price of the deal. According to the Agreement between Krusik and Sierra Four Industries, the price is $7,842,910. A further check in the US Federal Contracts Registry, however, shows that the price under this contract is much higher – $12,417,458 (or $4,5 million higher than the price in the contract with Krusik) which raises serious questions as to where the money has gone.
According to the leaked e-mails, the weapons were shipped on trucks from Serbia to the US arms depot in Podhum, Croatia, not in Romania or Kuwait as the British broker initially states. The address indicated on the labels of the boxes is the address of the Croatian state-owned military company Agency Alan’s warehouse (Grobnik Processing Site) in Podhum, some 30 km from Rijeka Airport. Agency Alan itself has a $17.6 m contract with the Pentagon for the delivery of non-US standard weapons (2017-2018).
Zachariah Franklin whose name and USSOCOM e-mail is indicated on the labels of the mortar shells boxes, from Krusik to Croatia, is Chief Ammunition NCO, 1st Special Forces Command at the United States Army. According to his Linkedin account, in 2017 and 2018 (when the shipments to Croatia took place) he served as Ammunition Logistics NCO in 528th Sustainment Brigade. It supports US Army special operations forces around the world. However, he has not listed his deployment to Croatia as officer from the USSOCOM Task Force Smoking Gun meaning that the information about his work for Task Force Smoking Gun is classified.
The Pentagon hides flights using the same flight numbers
Two American air companies – Atlas Air and Kalitta Air, have been chartered by the Pentagon to transport weapons from Rijeka Airport to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. Flight logs of seven flights in 2018 operated by Atlas Air and Kalitta Air from Rijeka Airport to Al Udeid Air Base show that all these flights were assigned a Camber call sign (a military call sign used for US Transportation Command flights). The previous flights to Rijeka were assigned a civil call sign meaning that the planes were loaded with military cargo in Rijeka as the next flight from Rijeka to Al Udeid Military Air Base was with the Camber call sign.
Some of the flights have the same flight number (CMB514 or CMB515) despite being performed by different planes and in different months. Tracking these flights using planes tracking websites is practically impossible as the search results show only the last flight with the number CMB514 or CMB515, and there is no history of the rest of the flights which were also assigned the same flight number.
Diplomatic flights with weapons and narcotics
Atlas Air and Kalitta Air are prime Pentagon contractors, according to information obtained from the US Government contracting website. Atlas Air was awarded an indefinite delivery contract HTC71118DC005 (2018-2023) with a potential value of $227,9 m to transport hazardous, sensitive (including narcotics), refrigerated/cold chain (perishable), life and death, oversized, general cargo or unusual shipments.
Kalitta Air was awarded an indefinite delivery contract HTC71115DR047 (2015-2018) with a potential value of $266 m to move DoD and other US Government cargo with diplomatic clearance.
$1 million per flight from the US taxpayers’ money
Court documents reveal that one of the air companies with flights to Al Udeid Air Base – Kalitta Air received $1 million per flight under US government contracts. In November 2016 a former employee of Kalitta Air filed a complaint against the company on the grounds that the employees did not receive the compensation (the so called hazard pay) which the Pentagon paid to Kalitta for operations in war zones. According to the court documents, “Kalitta contracts with the U.S. Transportation Command to pick up and deliver cargo to the U.S. armed forces in various locations including areas that have been designated “combat zones” by the President of the United States. In addition to the pay Kalitta receives of approximately $1,000,000 per flight plus fuel costs, Kalitta also receives $27,000 per flight for “hazard pay,” which Kalitta is required to pay to the employees on flights into dangerous combat zones. Kalitta does not pay the $27,000 in hazard pay to its employees.”
Leaked passports of US Government officials
One American national has been a frequent visitor at the firing range of the Serbian arms manufacturer Krusik since 2017. His name and passport appears regularly in the leaked e-mails – Ronald Wheeler. He is a DCMA (Defense Contract Management Agency) inspector and his job is to approve the weapons for acceptance by the private US contractors on behalf of the US Government.
Two other American nationals have also visited Krusik on several occasions – James Hamfeldt and Christopher Ratliff. Ratliff travelled under an official passport according to the leaked e-mails (passports used by US Government officials on government missions abroad). James Hamfeldt is a representative of the Pentagon contractor Alliant Techsystems Operations LLC (a wholly owned subsidiary of Orbital ATK, USA). Alliant Techsystems Operations LLC has been awarded a $262.6 m contract (2016-2021) W52P1J16D0058 to deliver non US standard weapons to the Pentagon.
In 2017 James Hamfeldt and Christopher Ratliff received an award from the US Central Command for their participation in the program for armament of militants in Syria and Iraq with non US-standard weapons.
Serbian mortar shells manufactured by Krusik can often be seen in the hands of militants in Syria, including in propaganda videos published by Al Nusra Front (Al Qaeda in Syria renamed to Fath Al Sham Front). On 3 March 2019 Serbian mortar shells from Krusik were discovered in Al Houla, Syria, hidden in an underground warehouse used by armed groups in the area.
Croatia – the Pentagon arms hub
98,160 pcs. of mortar shells from Krusik purchased by Pentagon contractors were exported to Croatia and stored in the USSOCOM arms depot in Grobnik in just two months – November 2017 and January 2018.
67,960 pcs. of 82 mm Mortar HE were exported on trucks from Serbia to Grobnik, Croatia under contracts with the US companies Global Ordnance and Sierra Four Industries in November 2017. Part of the weapons were packed in air craft pallets meaning that their final destination was not Croatia. The end user indicated was the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). However, none of the US Army commands use non US-standard weapons meaning that the weapons were smuggled to a third party.
Alliant Techsystems Operations (ATK) along with two other Pentagon contractors – UDC (USA) and Global Ordnance (USA), delivered a further 30,200 pcs. of Serbian mortar shells to the USSOCOM Task Force Smoking Gun depot in January 2018. The exporter was the Serbian state-owned company Jugoimport SDPR and the manufacturer – Krusik. A leaked internal memo between Jugoimport and Krusik reveals a very tight delivery schedule in 2018. The US contractors explain that the Croatian depot is over packed.
Below is the translation in English of an e-mail dated December 21, 2017 which Jugoimport-SDPR sent to Krusik:
ATK – planned December delivery of mortar shells 82mm Ill (6,000 pieces), 120mm Ill (2,000 pieces) and 60mm HE (3,000 pieces) postponed to the beginning of 2018. Delivery delay is caused by limited storage capacities in Croatia.
UDC – Delivery of 60mm HE (10,000 pieces) according to our foreign partner’s schedule is planned for the end of January 2018. The delivery of goods will depend on the storage capacities in Croatia, which our foreign partner cannot influence.
Global Ordnance – The first delivery of mortar shells 120mm HE (the first lot of 7,500 pieces) is planned for 15 January 2018, also due to the exhausted storage capacities in Croatia, caused by poor weather conditions for the dispatch of goods to the final destination.
The foreign partner is working intensively on the delivery of 82 mm mortar shells (1,700 pieces) where transit licenses are expected for the final destination in Germany. However, it is to be expected that this delivery will be completed in January 2018.
Also, please inform us when the second lot of 7,500 pieces of mortar shells 120mm HE for Global Ordnance will be ready for testing and acceptance.
End User – Unknown
Alliant Techsystems Operations (ATK) has purchased 198,906 pcs. of mortar shells from Krusik and 11,880,000 pcs. of 7.62×54 mm R Ball from another Serbian arms manufacturer Prvi Partizan under contracts with the Serbian state-owned company Jugoimport-SDPR. The delivery orders have been funded by the Department of the Army under the US federal contract W52P1J-16-D-0058.
20,000 pcs. of mortar shells purchased by Alliant Techsystems (ATK) have no end user indicated. It is only stated in the contract: “for the US Government’s purposes”. Furthermore, the US Army is not the end user as it does not use non-US standard weapons. According to the contract with Jugoimport SDPR, there are: 3,000 pcs. of 60mm M73 HE Mortar, 5,000 pcs. of 60mm M67 ILL Mortar, 5,000 pcs. of 82mm M67 ILL Mortar, 7,000 pcs. of 120mm M87P1 ILL Mortar, which have been exported without the real end user being indicated in the documents.
960 pcs. of mortar shells 82mm M67, ILL were shipped by Alliant Techsystems (ATK) in January of this year to the US Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center in Iraq. According to e-mails and photos of the boxes with weapons, the only information provided is: Customer – the Republic of Iraq. However, there is no information as to who exactly the end user of the mortar shells is.
The US company UDC delivered 10,000 pcs. of mortar shells 60 mm M73 HE under a $39 million US federal contract H9222216G0009-0006 in 2018 to the USSOCOM Task Force Smoking Gun arms depot in Croatia. The end user of the weapons is not indicated.
US government contractor: “Remove our name from the labels”
Leaked e-mails between Jugoimport and Krusik reveal a very special US client performing work for the US Government – Mil Spec Industries. The US contractor produces special chemicals and supplies the US Army, according to the company’s website. In 2017 Mil Spec Industries signed a contract with Jugoimport SDPR for the purchase of 100 pcs. of inert mortar shells 60 mm from the Serbian state-owned manufacturer Krusik at the price of $8,450. According to the contract with Krusik, the end user is the US Government (Vlada SAD in Serbian in the original document). Why would the US Government need 100 pcs. of Serbian inert mortar shells which are non-US standard and therefore cannot be used for training by the US Army?
The following correspondence between Jugoimport SDPR and Krusik raises even further questions – the US client did not want its name to be written anywhere.
In an e-mail dated 22 January 2018 Jugoimport instructed Krusik to delete the name of its client Mil Spec Industries from the labels.
Krusik followed the instructions and the name of the US client was deleted.
More leaked documents you can read here: