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Air Force looks at damage after intruder storms base, drives within feet of Osprey at Mildenhall

A CV-22 Osprey taxis prior to takeoff Jan. 17, 2017, on RAF Mildenhall, England. The U.S. Air Force said it is assessing the damage after a British man stormed the airfield in his vehicle and cruised across base with military security personnel in pursuit.

CHRIS SULLIVAN/U.S. AIR FORCE

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 20, 2017

The U.S. Air Force is assessing the damage caused to RAF Mildenhall two days after a 44-year-old British man stormed the base in his vehicle and sent security personnel on a chase across the facility.

At least one aircraft was slightly damaged because of the incident, the Air Force said.

"The damage sustained to the aircraft was negligible, but we are unable to provide any further details at this time,” Capt. Lauren Ott, a spokeswoman for U.S. Air Forces in Europe, said Wednesday.

Aerial video footage of the Monday intrusion indicates the intruder managed to drive within feet of a parked V-22 Osprey, coming to a halt with police right behind.

The man, who was taken into custody under Britain’s Mental Health Act, suffered bruises and scrapes during the encounter, Suffolk police said. U.S. military personnel fired shots during the melee, but the minor nature of the injuries suggest the suspect wasn’t hit.

The Air Force declined to say how many shots were fired or whether the shots were fired in warning.

“I’m unable to comment on these specific details as the investigation is still ongoing,” Ott said.

The Air Force said that in pursuit of the suspect a chase ended on an “aircraft ramp near the flight line.”

In recent years, the military across Europe has intensified security measures on base and off because of concerns that troops might be targeted by Islamic militants.

Steps taken have included a ban on wearing uniforms off base and heavier force protection postures among personnel positioned at gates. Car inspections at base checkpoints have become more frequent and thorough, and some facilities have added improved explosive detecting gear.

Bases in England have been among the potential targets for jihadis. In 2015, an Islamic extremist was convicted of plotting to attack U.S. personnel at bases in the country.

Police said the incident at Mildenhall was not terrorism-related, but the breach raises concerns about force-protection procedures.

Authorities have not explained how the intruder managed to breach the base and drive across it in his vehicle. The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, reported that the intruder impersonated a senior military official to slip past security. Other reports said the intruder forcibly drove through a checkpoint.

There are roughly 18,000 U.S. servicemembers, civilians and local nationals who work at various bases in England.

The Air Force said it is reviewing its security procedures.

“As a matter of policy, we do not discuss specific security measures at military installations,” Ott said in a statement. “However, we can confirm that our security measures remain multilayered and under constant review in coordination with both USAF and host nation to protect our personnel, their families and the surrounding community.”

vandiver.john@stripes.com
Twitter: @john_vandiver

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