Conspiracy at Desert One
By Bernace Charles
Colonel Keller sat before General Wallace's desk. Keller was tired but
alert for the task before him. The task was one on which he thrived. He
spent the past few days checking distances, fuel needs, and aircraft availability.
It was obvious Special Operations C-130s were going to be the aircraft
of choice to enter Iranian air space. But it would be those having in-flight
refueling capability. He said, "We're running into several problem
areas. I need flight planning navigators to help me."
"I'll trust your judgement. We'll get whomever you think you need."
"That isn't our big problem. General, we have to find some place
that will allow us to cut the distances down. We need a jumping off point
that'll keep the operation at a shorter range and keep it as secure as
Wallace said, "I don't believe any of Iran's neighbors are going
to offer a base. The Chairman has restricted us to either Egypt or Diego
Garcia. We may still be looking at a 5,000 to 6,000 mile trip."
General Wallace paused and continued, "Don't expect the Chairman
to OK Turkey, Oman, or the Saudis. I'm almost certain we'll have to avoid
them. Politics and world opinion are going to play a big part in this."
Keller knew the General was right. Politics was going to run the show
much as it did in NAM. Something needed decided other than coming up with
an operational plan meeting political demands. The country was at war with
terrorists and no other country was coming forward to offer their assistance.
The effort wasn't going to fall within the same parameters guiding the
Israeli raid on Entebbe; it wasn't going to fall within the likes of the
German GSG-9 and allow the storming of the embassy compound in Tehran.
It needed to be done by stealth and daring.
Colonel Keller said, "If we can get a launch base closer to Iran,
we can keep it to single refueling going in and coming out. It'll cut the
logistics and reduce the possibility of an accident. Any aircraft used,
including the helicopters would have to manage with minimum refueling requirements.
The problem is finding a remote place to execute the refueling without
"Colonel, I'm sure you're not aware of the Iranian's holding a
document from our ambassador requesting a large force to guard the embassy
in Tehran. The damn State Department blew it after these people broke into
the compound in February. Now, we have to work this as tightly as possible.
Anyone you bring in, I'll accept as part of your team. Just try to get
these distances down."
"We have a base in Egypt we could probably use. It's a place called
Wadi Kena. I believe we can use it as one of our staging bases to bring
the components of this together. We could use Navy rescue operations as
a cover for any air traffic. If we keep aircraft shuttling, the Soviets
might not catch on to what we're doing. We can also use Diego Garcia."
"And the aircraft to infiltrate Iran?"
"I believe our best bet is with the Combat Talon, MC-130 for this
type of operation. It doesn't take much support and it can get in and out
of just about any airfield with little preparation. We can refuel in flight.
I'm sure we're going to need it. We'll also need a heavy-lift helo. The
Navy says the best launch point is from a ship. The RH-53D Sea Stallion
can carry removable fuel tanks. That would give it the range. Bringing
them in on a carrier also provides us cover for them as we enter the area.
Their cover can be that their checking the Strait of Hormuz for mines.
Rumor has it the Iranians may have mined the strait; it gives us credible
reason for having the helos present in the strait or in the Indian Ocean
General Wallace nodded approval and felt thankful that Keller gave considerable
thought to the various options available. It was going to take a lot more
thinking to find a way to penetrate the Iranian coast and push another
six hundred miles into a hostile country. He asked, "Where would the
helicopter refueling operations take place?"
"It could be done over the Persian Gulf or we can prepare a refueling
stop in the Iranian desert. We could airdrop the fuel or fly it in ahead
of the helos."
"Where would you penetrate Iranian airspace?"
"We're studying the possible gaps in their coastal radar. There
appears to be a break near two places called Chah Bhar and Jask on the
Indian Ocean. We're not sure yet. It'll take awhile to check it out."
"What about the refueling drop? How are you going to secure it?"
"Personnel would drop with the fuel to set up the bladders for
transferring the gas. It could be Army Rangers or Air Force Special Tactics
Troops . . . someone we could drop in. A security team would have to cover
and protect it until the operation was secure. Until we know the best route,
it's hard to figure just how much fuel we need."
General Wallace stood and stepped to a map of the Middle East and fixed
his interest on the proposed airfield Colonel Keller mentioned. Wadi Kena
was in the extreme southeast corner of Egypt and just west of the Red Sea.
It looked isolated enough. His study followed an imagined route along the
Red Sea to the south and west of North Yemen before turning east toward
the Indian Ocean. The distances were too long. In his mind were the enormous
distances men would have to travel to reach Tehran. He turned to Colonel
Keller. "Well, Kevin," he said, "at least it's a start .
. . it's a start. It's time to fine-tune it. Keep me updated on sites you're
considering for dropping fuel bladders. I want to know precisely how we
might carry out either option. It can't be near any populated areas. It
has to be remote yet within striking distance of Tehran. Also keep an open
mind to any other options we may want to consider, especially other bases
we can use as points of execution."
Colonel Keller stood and said, "We have to get the C-130 crews
working on refueling procedures to see if it can be done at night without
radio communications. I'll keep you updated." Colonel Keller left
With Keller out of the office, General Wallace turned his attention
back to the map of the Middle East. As he studied it, he wondered if he
could expect to keep the planned operation out of the prying eyes and ears
of others. The whole damn region benefited from American aid and not one
country, other than Egypt, offered a forward base from which they might
operate. He turned to the distance between the island of Diego Garcia and
Tehran. Unknown to the general and Colonel Keller, security had already
been broken. >>>
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