US deploys private military contractors from Libya to Europe
At least 150 private military contractors have been transported to Europe on Pentagon-chartered flights over the last weeks, according to information and flight data analyzed by Arms Watch.
US military contractors operating in Benghazi (Libya) were transferred to Bulgaria’s capital Sofia on 28 October 2020 via Malta using two aircraft, sources at Sofia Airport have revealed:
- Boeing 767 with registration N495AX operated by Omni Air, USA (a Pentagon contractor working under a $19.8 million contract for air transportation services, according to information from the US federal contracts registry)
- Saab 2000 with registration ES-NSH operated by Nyx Air – Estonia
On 27 October 2020 at 14:23 UTC the American Boeing 767 with registration N495AX operated by Omni Air took off from Dulles International Airport, Washington and at 22:51 UTC landed at Sofia Airport.
On 28 October at 3:45 am EET N495AX departed from Sofia Airport and at 6:23 am EET landed in Erbil, Iraq.
At 7:50 am EET N495AX departed from Erbil to Malta.
Meanwhile, at 7:21 am EET the Estonian Nyx Air ES-NSH departed from Malta to Benghazi.
ES-NSH departed from Benghazi to Malta and at 10:50 am EET the aircraft landed at Luqa Airport, Malta.
An hour later, at 11:56 am EET N495AX landed in Malta from Erbil.
Few minutes later, the Estonian plane ES-NSH took off back to Benghazi.
After ES-NSH took off for Benghazi N495AX departed for Sofia at 1 pm EET.
Passengers from Erbil to Benghazi
According to flight information, 17 passengers from Erbil were transported by Omni Air N495AX to Malta from where they were transferred to Benghazi by Nyx Air ES-NSH.
Passengers from Benghazi to Sofia
23 passengers from Benghazi were transported by Nyx Air ES-NSH to Malta from where they were transferred to Sofia by Omni Air N495AX, information from Sofia Airport reveals. The two planes exchanged passengers.
Although the US Army does not officially operate in Benghazi, the number of flights between Benghazi and Washington has risen since June, according to an investigative report published by The Times.
N495AX departed back to Washington from Sofia and landed at Dulles Airport at 00:54 UTC on 29 October.
The same day, 29 October, at 14:05 UTC the same Omni Air aircraft N495AX departed from Washington Dulles Airport and landed again at Sofia Airport at 12:30 am EET (two consecutive flights in just two days).
2 h 25 min later, at 2:55 am EET on 30 October another Omni Air Boeing 767 with registration N207AX landed at Sofia Airport from Washington Dulles Airport.
While N207AX (OAE6639) was still taxiing, the other Omni Air aircraft N495AX (B763) departed from Sofia at 3:02 am EET heading east to Kabul and then back to Sofia and Washington.
Military flights with special status to Sofia and Bucharest
Omni Air has performed a number of flights to Bulgaria and Romania over the last few months, flight data shows. The air company has been contracted by the US Transportation Command to transport passengers and cargo for the Pentagon, according to information from the US Federal contracts registry. These flights are military flights with a special status operated by civil aircraft – MARSA flights.
The unusual US activity on the Balkans happens days before the upcoming presidential elections in Moldova, scheduled to take place on Sunday, November 1, 2020. It will be the 4th presidential election since the nation’s declaration of independence. Voters will be able either to elect a new president or re-elect the incumbent Igor Dodon.
The key date of the elections is November 11, after which the name of the new President of Moldova will be known.
US Secretary of Defense Mark Epster has already announced that the US will further expand its defense cooperation with Bulgaria and Romania. It is likely that such plans include the urgent transfer of military contractors from war zones to Europe.
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