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 Write for The Iranian

Conspiracy at Desert One
A novel

By Bernace Charles
The Iranian

Chapter Ten

The Pentagon

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 possible."

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 being detected."

"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 off Oman."

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 the room.

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. >>> Go to Chapter Eleven

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