Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

April 11, 2023

Jet Fighters Endanger Tohono O'odham

This jet, N635AX, operated by the private company ATAC flew repeated combat jet fighting missions over the Tohono O'odham Nation during the last two weeks of March 2023. It is based at Luke AFB Phoenix.

Tohono O'odham were not informed of jet combat training overhead, or that the Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems had built an 11th spy tower in the heart of the Tohono O'odham Nation

By Brenda Norrell

Copyright Censored News

Updated April 11, 2023

April 11, 2023

GU-VO District, Tohono O'odham Nation -- Jet combat fights above the western Tohono O'odham Nation this week endangered the lives of O'odham, who were not informed. The jets were identified as being owned by the private training company, ATAC, Airborne Tactical Advantage Company, which uses second-hand jets. It is not the U.S. military.

The company, ATAC, based in Virginia, flew out of Phoenix and engaged in simulated air combat over the Tohono O'odham District of Gu-Vo between 7 and 9 p.m. local time on Wednesday. ATAC has air combat training contracts with the U.S. Navy, Marines and Air Force.

"Living out here on the land, we are not fully informed, and we have not given permission for them to fly over us," said Ofelia Rivas, Tohono O'odham, who lives in Gu-Vo District.

Rivas points out the high risk for O'odham who live on the land, pointing out the extreme danger for O'odham. Due to the remote area, there are slow responses to fuel spills and crashes.

Jet fighter training endangered Tohono O'odham in Gu-Vo District this week. In this screenshot by Censored News, a Falcon jet is engaging with another aircraft whose identity is so secretive that it is blocked here on Flight Radar 24 online. Censored News screenshot.

"Constant sonic booms over Ali Jeg'k village along the US/Mexico border have shaken the ground of the entire valley. My adobe brick house has many cracks and the roof seal to the walls are cracked from the sonic booms," Rivas said.

"The effects on the people, animals, insects, and plants must be evaluated by experts to document the impacts and alteration, especially the health effects on people in the village."

Tohono O'odham could see the jets engaged in battle overhead but were given no information.

Why are jets endangering Tohono O'odham with this continual jet combat fighting?

The Airforce has the Goldwater Bombing Range and other areas for this. The Barry M. Goldwater Complex is a training range for U.S. and allied pilots, and consists of 1.9 million acres of Sonoran Desert, southwest of Luke Air Force Base, between Yuma and Tucson.

Jet fighter training crashes have already ended in death for the foreign military being trained in southern Arizona, including an Iraqi pilot in 2017, and a pilot from Taiwan in 2016. In 1997, a woman jet pilot was killed in a crash at Goldwater Bombing Range, west of the Tohono O'odham Nation. ATAC has a history of crashes during jet training exercises.

Tohono O'odham Endangered by Jet Combat Overhead This Week

This image shows ATAC's Dassault Mirage F1CR jet (shown in red) engaging in an air fight with another jet over Gu-Vo on the Tohono O'odham Nation. It is owned by the private company ATAC of Virginia. Flight Radar 24 shows it departed from Phoenix. Flight Radar 24 screenshot by Censored News.

ATAC, was created by former military officers and has a history of crashes and accidents, including accidents during jet training while pilots were based on Fallon Paiute Shoshone land in Nevada.

The U.S. Air Force, in 2015, in a cost-saving measure, began hiring private companies operating fleets of old, cheap-to-fly foreign jet fighters to serve as the aggressors for training. 

ATAC has operations based at Luke Air Force Base, in Glendale, in the Phoenix area. It has acquired second-hand jets from the militaries of both France and Israel. The jets from Israel are Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) Kfirs.

ATAC trains foreign military pilots for jet combat fighting in the skies of southern Arizona, usually with no warning to those below. In Arizona, this includes Tohono O'odham, San Carlos Apache and White Mountain Apache living in their homelands.

Training combat jet over San Carlos Apache Nation on Friday
The same training jet that flew combat training missions over the Tohono O'odham Nation last week, flew over the San Carlos Apache Nation on Friday morning. It departed from Goodyear airport and returned to Luke Airforce Base. It is one of the second-hand jets from the French military purchased by the private training company ATAC. ATAC has a history of crashes and accidents, including those of pilots on the Paiute Shoshone land at Fallon Bombing Range.

Israel's Elbit Built 11th Secretive Spy Tower on Tohono O'odham Nation

Censored News identified an 11th spy tower built by Elbit Systems, the Israeli defense contractor, in the heart of the Tohono O'odham Nation. The spy towers and jet combat fighting are both part of the increased militarization for Tohono O'odham who live on their homeland.

Tohono O'odham said they were unaware that the 11th spy tower, an integrated fixed tower, had been built, since the Tohono O'odham Nation government only approved 10 integrated fixed towers in its resolution on March 25, 2019.

The spy tower is officially identified as south of Maish Vaya and located on a mountaintop in the heart of the Tohono O'odham Nation. The area is known to O'odham as Ouijotoa.

This means that two of the 11 towers built by Elbit Systems on the Tohono O'odham Nation -- the one at Menager's Dam in Gu-Vo District, and the Maish Vaya spy tower in the heart of the Tohono O'odham Nation -- are not located on the border. They are in a position to spy on the O'odham.

Tohono O'odham said Elbit has constructed a spy tower on an O'odham burial place.

Since the beginning, Gu-Vo District has opposed the integrated fixed towers.

"The Gu-Vo District opposes these proposed tower sites to protect cultural sites on the holy mountain now called the Ajo Mountain Range. The mountain holds human remains of our people and also places of our cultural practices (medicine bundles) home and home of the ceremonial deer and bighorn sheep and mountain tortoises that are protected under the Endangered Species Act," Gu-Vo District said.

Shut Down Elbit actions continue in England

Surveillance used in Palestine now targets Tohono O'odham

U.S. Border Patrol agents use the live feed from Elbit's spy towers to track people on the Tohono O'odham Nation. The U.S. Border Patrol agents in southern Arizona have a long history of serial rape, assaults, murders and drug running. On the Tohono O'odham Nation, there are agents from Tucson, Ajo and Casa Grande stations of the U.S. Border Patrol, adding to the confusion and crimes by agents.

Tohono O'odham said the Israeli spy towers make women, the elderly and children, vulnerable to stalking by U.S. Border Patrol agents, whose crimes are often covered up by the U.S. Border Patrol.

Around the world, Elbit Systems is being protested for its Apartheid surveillance in Palestine, deadly drones and weapons. Currently, protests are underway in England to shut down Elbit Systems and its subcontractors who are manufacturing surveillance, weapons and drones used in Palestine.

U.S. Border Patrol uses Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems' spy towers on the Tohono O'odham Nation to spy on O'odham and their land. The live data as shown here is being viewed by U.S. Border Patrol agents at Davis Monthan Air Force base in Tucson, Arizona.

(Below) Integrated Fixed Towers, known as spy towers, built by the Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems are shown in yellow on the Tohono O'odham Nation on the Arizona border. The yellow also shows spy towers in the border town of Ajo, Arizona, and along the Arizona border toward the east, with spy towers in New Mexico to the Texas border.

The contracts to Elbit Systems were first granted by U.S. Homeland Security. Then 10 of the spy towers by Elbit Systems were approved by the Tohono O'odham Nation government in 2019. Elbit's contracts were celebrated in Israel, where Elbit is based. Screenshot by Censored News.

Airforce Seeks to Increase Dangers

The Airforce released new proposals to enable its fighter jets to fly lower and use dangerous chaff and flares in Arizona and New Mexico, in its environmental impact statement in 2022. Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva pointed out the dangers. 

Grijalva responded to new dangers proposed by the Airforce in May during the Ariforce's extended comment period. Grijalva pointed out the lack of consultation with Native American Tribes, and increased danger from noise, fiberglass material dropped in exercises, and the fire danger from flares.

"First and foremost, the proposal would directly impact three tribal communities -- the Tohono O’odham Nation, White Mountain Apache Tribe, and San Carlos Apache Tribe."

"Given this direct connection to tribal interests, I am concerned that there was not adequate consultation with Tribal governments prior to the proposals being presented to the public. The Air Force held a public meeting in Ajo near the Tohono O’odham Nation, but meetings were not held on or near the White Mountain or San Carlos Apache tribal lands."

Grijalva said public health experts link noise pollution directly to hearing loss, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. The Air Force EIS must include impacts of noise, including sonic booms, he said.

Pointing out the clean water and habitat for wildlife, including many threatened wildlife, Grijalva said the proposed use of chaff over Arizona airspace includes wilderness areas and sensitive ecosystems. He said this is alarming.

"The release of fiberglass material that will inevitably fall to the ground is a potential pollution risk that should be avoided. Moreover, the use of flares at lower elevations could exacerbate the risk of wildfire in arid regions which is why it’s important for the Air Force to comprehensibly assess and address wildfire risks."

Jets Combat Fighting over Tohono O'odham Nation this Week

One of the multiple fighting jets above the western portion of the Tohono O'odham Nation on Wednesday evening, this Dassault Mirage F1CT owned by the private company ATAC. Screenshot by Censored News.

A F-16A Fighting Falcon owned by General Dynamics engages in jet combat fighting above the western portion of the Tohono O'odham Nation on Wednesday evening. Flight Radar Screenshot by Censored News.

Read more:

U.S. and Israel joint military operations today in the Nevada Desert
'Red Flag' exercises, March 2023

U.S. and Israel joint military exercises are underway in the U.S., today in the Nevada desert. The continual deaths of Palestinians are being protested around the world. While the U.S. continues to fund Israel, human rights defenders urge the acts by Israel to be declared Apartheid. This includes the murder and torture of women, children and elderly Palestinians.
Air Force wants to increase the dangers

(Tribune News Service) —The Air Force wants to start flying lower-altitude supersonic flights and expand nighttime flying hours over 10 military training airspaces spanning thousands of square miles across Arizona and a small part of New Mexico.

The Air Force says the changes to the special-use airspaces called Military Operations Areas, or MOAs, are needed to optimize training conducted by units at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the Morris Air National Guard Base at Tucson International Airport, and Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix.

The proposed changes would affect the adjacent Sells, Ruby and Fuzzy MOAs, stretching southwest of Tucson from Interstate 19 to near Ajo; the Tombstone MOA, which covers the southeast corner of Arizona and southwest corner of New Mexico; the adjacent Bagdad and Gladden MOAs northwest of Phoenix; and the Outlaw, Jackal, Morenci and Reserve MOAs, which together stretch across a huge swath of east-central Arizona into New Mexico.

ATAC Crashes in Arizona

Mirage F1 fighter jet crashed near Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, US, on February 10, 2022. In 2017, ATAC purchased 63 retired Mirage F1s from the French Air Force, adding the aircraft to an inventory of IAI Kfirs, Hawker Hunters and L-39 Albatrosses. 

ATAC Jet Crashes off the coast of North Carolina

ATAC Accidents and incident

Israeli jet, IAI F-21 Kfir, is shown in the photo

One IAI F-21 Kfir of ATAC in 2016.
8 July 2010
Douglas A-4 Skyhawk N132AT lost power during takeoff and crashed in a field near Naval Air Station Fallon. The pilot ejected safely. Investigations by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were completed.[7]
6 March 2012
IAI Kfir N404AX crashed into a building near at Naval Air Station Fallon in inclement weather, killing the pilot. Investigations by the FAA and NTSB were completed.[8]
18 May 2012
Hawker Hunter N329AX crashed in a field on final approach to Naval Air Station Point Mugu, killing the pilot. Investigations by the FAA and NTSB have been completed.[9][10]
29 October 2014
Hawker Hunter N332AX crashed in a field near Naval Air Station Point Mugu, killing the pilot. Investigations by the FAA and NTSB have been completed.[11][12][13]
22 August 2017
Hawker Hunter crashed about 100 miles off the coast of San DiegoCalifornia. The pilot was able to eject and was recovered by a U.S. Navy helicopter from aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.[14]
25 February 2021
Mirage F1B slid off the end of the runway at Tyndall Air Force Base. Both pilots were transported to the local hospital.[15]:
14 April 2021
Hawker Hunter N331AX suffered a runway excursion incident at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.[16]
6 June 2022
Hawker Hunter N337AX crashed approximately 41 nautical miles off the coast of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. The pilot was able to eject, suffering a spinal injury upon ejection. Investigations by the FAA and NTSB are in work.[17]

ATAC jet crashes at Fallon Paiute Shoshone ancestral lands, killing the pilot

ATAC jet crashed at Fallon on Paiute Shoshone ancestral lands
in Nevada in 2012, killing the pilot. It was the second crash here
in two years.

Israeli and U.S. joint military training

U.S. Marines in Israel in February in joint U.S. and Israeli military training.

U.S. military provides Phoenix Ghost Drones to Ukraine
Part drone, part missile

Article copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News. Content may not be used without written permission.

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