The Kerman Raids
This was not ex Warrant Officer Robert ‘Bob’ Stimsons’ first rodeo. He had been on many an operation before, even covert ones but always in an official capacity. There had also been a few one man shows he had taken on since leaving the service but this was the first time he had run a full operation as a deniable.
“Guidance systems.” Pseudo Commander Smith had told Bob. “We’d rather like to know how good they are and at the same time put a spanner in the works. The idea that these people could produce cruise missiles and potentially deliver them with nuclear warheads to our door is an idea we do not even wish to countenance.”
Can a deniable operation into a hostile foreign country actually pay off? Or is it a suicide mission?
Tasked with the elimination of a factory in the Middle East Bob had to assemble a team and equipment from scratch and then come up with a plan. Parachuting into a hostile country in the middle of the night was never going to be a simple thing let alone completing a daunting mission. The worst thing was on bringing back proof of the enemys’ capabilities his orders were to go back and retrieve targeting information. And this time the enemy would be waiting…..
The air was cold but at fourteen-thousand feet that was only to be expected. Flight KF404 was two hours into the flight en route from Sharjah to Herat and delivering of all things, and should anyone have looked all they would have seen was four pallets of premium toilet paper and a few extra passengers. Passengers who had boarded at the run as the plane slowed on a dark taxiway. Passengers who wore shop bought sand coloured clothing, military style webbing, carried assault weapons and who had opened a pallet in flight. A pallet that although lined with toilet paper packs concealed a large bag containing parachutes, Hi-lo jump gear, cam sheets and eight back packs each with extra munitions, rations and explosives. Everything the men wore or took from the pallet had been privately acquired. The dark blue sport parachutes purchased in the United States ostensibly for a sky diving team that did not actually exist, the Hi-lo breathing gear from a different source but with the same explanation, clothing, webbing, helmets and dry rations from various on-line army surplus and paintball sources, guns and explosives from an illicit Israeli arms dealer and ammunition from a number of gun shops across America. All shipped via various means to an address in Abu Dhabi and once packed on a pallet along with rolls of toilet paper as a cover driven to Sharjah where it was loaded with the other pallets similarly lined with toilet paper but to save weight, with hollow cores.
These men were not supposed to be there and officially they were not. These men were to all intents and purposes mercenaries. Government sanctioned mercenaries.
It was just one more deniable mission. With no official military contribution the plane they were using was not an old one in aviation terms, but an older aircraft with a cargo ramp. It was non pressurised and the air was thin at that altitude, making breathing difficult and special breathing arrangements were needed as there were eight people on board in excess of the declared flight crew. The large bag, now partially emptied was removed from the pallet, dragged to the back of the plane and re-rigged.
Word came back from the flight deck and Bob Stimson signalled for his team to prepare. Eight men stood, checked their equipment and weapons then shuffled past the pallets locked in place down the centre of the fuselage, each one picking up a weighted duffel bag that tied to their leg and dropped below them once the parachute had deployed would give a moments’ warning of ground proximity.
The man who had brought the word preceded the eight to the rear of the aircraft, a single figure with an ungainly gait due to artificial limbs who attached himself securely to a lanyard plugged in his communications cord then unlocked and lowered the cargo ramp.
The wait seemed eternal, stood on the cargo deck with the ramp open before them, the turbulent freezing air swirling and attempting to suck the jumpers out prematurely. Then the amputee held up his hand, fingers splayed. First one closed then another until just one remained. Even as the final finger contracted three of the eight pushed the bag out of the back, leaving the aircraft at the same time, one with the bag the other two peeling off left and right with the remaining five just seconds behind. The aircraft did not jump at the weight loss, rather the pilot having struggled to keep the plane on an even keel with the weight distribution temporarily set aft, now found that with eight hundred kilos gone from the back end, a swift re-trim and the plane carried happily on its way.
Dropping into the night sky the eight plummeted as one, falling faster and faster, within five-seconds reaching a one hundred and twenty miles per hour terminal velocity. The fall to three thousand feet AMSL would take a minute and a half. It had to be at three thousand feet where they pulled the chute release toggles to deploy the precisely folded dark cloth that would then catch the wind and blossom, yanking each individual to a virtual stop in the air, because the terrain on which they would land was already at two thousand feet above sea level. As number one in the stick, Bob pulled his toggle and felt his chute deploying, already the material was slowing his descent and the bag was dropping away from him. He felt the rope connecting him to it yank tight, half a second to ensure the drogue deployed and then he let it go. Even as the canopy blossomed above him he could see the one connected to the bag deploying in the darkness below. Breathing a sigh of relief Bob Stimson knew that he and the bag would not be far separated on hitting the ground. His only concern was that he should not entangle himself in its collapsing parachute.
Ex Warrant Officer Robert “Bob” Stimson could have planned a closer drop zone but all around the target was mountainous and the risks of landing on a slope in the dark were too high. Once they were down there was a forty mile hike ahead of them across very difficult terrain before they reached the target. This was not Bobs’ first rodeo. He had been on many an operation before, even covert ones but always in an official capacity. There had also been a few one man shows he had taken on since leaving the service but this was the first time he had run a full operation as a deniable.
It had come through the usual channels, a coded text arranging a meeting in a private club. A private room with a stranger sounding him out even though he already had a reputation.
“Would he be prepared to consider a private holiday in somewhere exotic?”
Bob always said yes. He would consider anything but reserved the right to reject any proposal he did not consider feasible. The answer always came back that once he had agreed to see detail there would be no turning back.
“It’s a simple equation.” Bob would tell the stranger. “I give you a price and you decide if you still want to give me the job.”
It was a tactic he had learned the hard way. Just as once he knew the nature of the tasking he was not in a position to turn it down, once he was tasked, nor were his taskmasters in a position to refuse his funding. They may haggle, but invariably conceded a fair days pay for a fair days work.