חבר מתאריך: 13.11.04
RESCUE MISSION REPORT
בתגובה להודעה מספר 1
שנכתבה על ידי סירפד שמתחילה ב "טופר הנשר - כשלון חילוץ בני הערובה האמריקאים באירן, 1980"
בראש ועדת החקירה הרשמית של האירוע עמד אדמירל 4 כוכבים בדימוס ג'יימס הולוויי, מפקד הצי האמריקני ב 1974-1978 שהוזכר על ידי מספר פעמים בפורום והיא כללה בנוסף אליו 2 גנרלים בדימוס ו 3 גנרלים בשירות פעיל מכל הזרועות האמריקניות ומרקעים מבצעיים שונים.
These conclusions lead the Group to recommend that:
-a Counterterrorist Joint Task Force (CTJTF) be established as a field agency of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with permanently assigned staff personnel and certain assigned forces.
- the Joint Chiefs of Staff give careful consideration to the establishment of a Special Operations Advisory Panel, comprised of a group of carefully selected high-ranking officers (active and/or retired) who have career backgrounds in special operations or who have served at the CINC or JCS levels and who have maintained a current interest in special operations or defense policy matters.
Issue 10: The use of other helicopters
Event. Initial study of the Iranian situation and forces available quickly led to the belief that a rescue attempt would require heavy-lift, long-range helicopters. On 19 November 1979, the CJCS approved development of a plan using helicopters. The RH-53D was selected after an in-depth review of available helicopter resources and their inherent capabilities.
JTF Rationale. Primary criteria for selection included range, payload, and ability to be positioned rapidly; i.e., airliftable. Other major considerations were suitability of candidate helicopters to carrier operations and OPSEC. Primary candidates for the rescue mission were the CH-46, CH-47, CH-53, RH-53, and HH-53 military helicopters. All were C-5 airliftable, but range and payload considerations favored the -53 series, of the latter, the RH-53D provided the best combination of range, payload, and shipboard compatibility.
Alternative. Selection of the RH-53D for all the reasons was correct. However, it has been contended that specially configured HH-53 helicopters should have been favorably considered as primary replacements. On the other hand, these specially equipped helicopters were just coming off the production line, only a handful of pilots were proficient in flying them and operating their sophisticated systems, and they carry less payload than the RH-53D. In addition, reliability and maintainability of such a sophisticated system was doubtful at this early stage of its introduction.
Implications. On the positive side, specially equipped helicopters would have markedly improved ability. Considering that at the time there was no practical alternatives to launching the helicopter force from a carrier, the negative implications of the group’s alternative are the deciding factor. An HH-53 helicopter will not fit into a carrier elevator or below decks without removal of its rotor blades—a procedure not recommended for daily operations. The option of leaving helicopters on decks is virtually infeasible [unfeasible?] because of the corrosive atmosphere; difficulty of maintenance; impact on carrier operations; and, above all, OPSEC. Logistic support of a relatively new and exotic weapon system would be further complicated by the additional delays in shipboard resupply.
Evaluation. During the planning process, the RH-53D emerged as the only helicopter with the full combination of operational capabilities upon which a feasible rescue plan could be structured.
Issue 11: Helicopter force size
Event. Approximately two weeks after US Embassy personnel in Iran were taken hostage, six RH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters were delivered to the carrier Kitty Hawk, and eventually transferred to the carrier Nimitz when she arrived on station. These six, augmented by two more brought in on Nimitz, launched on 24 April in support of the rescue operation. The mission was aborted on the morning of 25 April because the number of RH-53D helicopters available to proceed was less than required.
JTF Rationale. As planning for the rescue progressed, the number of helicopters perceived necessary to execute the mission grew from four, to six, to seven, and eventually to eight. These incremental increases were the result of unforeseen growth in the force believed necessary to achieve an acceptable probability of success in assaulting the Embassy and freeing the hostages. In addition, more helicopters were required to compensate for the lift capability lost because of seasonal temperature increases in the objective areas.
The JTF decision on helicopter requirements was based on the collective professional judgment of highly experienced helicopter pilots participating in rescue mission planning. A risk analysis based on fleet-wide RH-53D statistical data for an 18-month period from 1 July 1978 to 31 December 1979 seemed to support the planners’ conclusion that eight RH-53D helicopters aboard Nimitz provided an acceptable degree of risk. Moreover, the always-primary OPSEC concern apparently influenced the planners’ rationale, driving them to seek minimum practical force levels. In hindsight, it is clear that the eight helicopters put aboard Nimitz provided adequate redundancy to airlift the initial assault force. However, as personnel and equipment grew in response to evolving intelligence, the minimum airlift requirement at Desert One increased.
Alternative. The review group concluded that additional helicopters and crews would have reduced the risk of abort due to mechanical failure, were operationally feasible, and could have been made available until quite late in the planning evolution. An unconstrained planner would more than likely have initially required at least 10 helicopters under JTF combat rules, 11 under the most likely case, and up to 12 using peacetime historical data. Nimitz was capable of onloading a few more helicopters with little or no impact on other missions. Aircrew availability did not limit the force. By reducing the contingency margin, fuel available at Desert One was sufficient to accommodate at least 10 helicopters. In sum, aside from OPSEC, no operational or logistic factor prohibited launching 11 from Nimitz and continuing beyond the halfway point to Desert One with 10 helicopters.
Implications. The negative implications of this alternative include abandoning more helicopters in Iran, an increased threat to OPSEC generated by additional aircraft, and a reduction in contingency fuel at Desert One. On the positive side, the group’s alternative would have decreased the probability that the number of mission-capable helicopters would fall below the required minimum.
Evaluation. The number of mission-capable helicopters available at Desert One was critical to allowing the mission to proceed. It is too simplistic to suggest that adding more helicopters would have reduced the likelihood of the mission aborting due to mechanical failure. The problematic advantages of an increased helicopter force must be balanced against the increased threat posed to OPSEC throughout the continuum of training, deployment, and execution and the reduced contingency fuel reserve at Desert One. In retrospect, it appears that on balance an increase in the helicopter force was warranted; however, such an increase could not itself guarantee success.
Issue 12: Alternate helicopter pilots
Event. At the outset, with the fate of the hostages unknown and unpredictable, an immediate capability to mount a possible rescue attempt was mandatory. Although a residue of similar capability from the Vietnam conflict existed, it was not intact; therefore, it was expedient to select an integral unit proficient in the RH-53D and carrier operations. To bolster the unit’s night assault capability, Navy pilots were paired with Marine Corps pilots versed in assault missions. In this crew configuration, training progress was viewed as unsatisfactory by COMJTF. As a result, pilots progressing slowly were released in late December 1979, and USN/USMC pilots known to have demonstrated capabilities more akin to the mission were recruited. Training in preparation for the rescue progressed more rapidly with the revised crews, and no further wholesale aircrew changes were made or contemplated.
JTF Rationale. The need to be ready at any moment precluded a smooth program designed to achieve a specific capability by 24 April 1980. The requirement to be ready when windows of opportunity opened resulted not in one five-month training program, but several discrete two- or three-week programs—shingled, one overlapping the other.
Alternative. During this period, USAF pilot resources included 114 qualified H-53 pilots, instructors, and flight examiners. Of these, 96 were current in long-range flight and aerial refueling. In addition, there were another 86 former H-53 qualified pilots identified, most of whom had fairly recent Special Operations Forces (SOF) or rescue experience. These USAF pilots, more experienced in the mission profiles envisioned for the rescue operation, would have probably progressed more rapidly than pilots proficient in the basic weapons systems but trained in a markedly different role. USAF pilots, as well as those from other Services, with training and operational experience closely related to the rescue mission profile could have been identified and made available. The real question to be addressed is: is transition to a new and highly complex mission in the same aircraft more or less difficult for an experienced pilot to master than transition to an aircraft variant in the same mission? Mastering a new, difficult, and complex mission requires a pilot to acquire and hone new skills and, more importantly, a new mind-set. Transitioning from an HH- or CH-53 to an RH-53 requires only learning a few new flight parameters and slightly altering already established procedures, something every experienced pilot has done several times. This point is not new. Experience gained in Project "Jungle Jim" (circa 1961) illustrated that learning new and vastly different complex mission skills is far more difficult than transitioning to an aircraft of similar design and performance characteristics.
Implications. Teaming carefully selected pilots of all Services, with a heavy weight on USAF SOF/rescue and USMC assault experience, would most likely have produced the most competent crews at an earlier date. However, introduction of large numbers of USAF pilots would have complicated the OPSEC problem in training and aboard the carrier.
Evaluation. Should a rescue mission have been attempted in the early days after the Embassy seizure, it is probable that a complement of selected pilots with extensive or current assault and rescue experience would have been more effective. However, there is nothing to suggest that any other combination of aircrews could or would have performed the mission better than those who flew it on 24 April 1980. While this issue was not crucial to the mission, it does indicate the importance of designating an operational helicopter unit responsible for maintaining mission capability in this area.
Issue 13: Established helicopter unit
Event. Selection of the RH-53D helicopter for the rescue mission naturally led to selection of an RH-53D squadron as the unit to perform the mission.
JTF Rationale. The JTF selected a minesweeping helicopter squadron as the most expedient solution when it became evident the RH-53D was the helicopter to use.
Alternative. The group would marry up the appropriate helicopters and their maintenance capability with an operational unit compatible with mission requirements. When it was clear that RH-53D helicopters were required, selection of a USMC assault squadron would have facilitated training and in constructing a credible OPSEC cover story. If necessary, highly qualified pilots from other Services could have augmented the Marine squadron to bolster its capability. The main point is that the squadron’s institutional structure would be preserved; e.g., training, tactics, and standardization. Personnel performing and experienced in these functions would greatly enhance the unit’s ability to smoothly transition into its new role. Perhaps one of the key squadron staff functions referenced above would have perceived the Blade Inspection Method (BIM)-associated abort experienced during training as a major potential cause of abort during the mission and pursued the facts as the review group did. Armed with knowledge of the circumstances surrounding BIM failures, the pilots of Helicopter #6 could have reached a more informed decision on the risk associated with continuing.
Evaluation. It is believed the preservation of an established squadron’s inherent unit cohesion could have facilitated training, enhanced information flow, and increased aircrew knowledge, all of which could lead to a more integrated unit operation. It cannot be demonstrated nor is it suggested that these factors would have altered the outcome. However, they would have enhanced training and more likely increased the chance of success.
Issue 14: Handling the dust phenomenon
Event. There was serious and justifiable concern with the ability to accurately forecast weather along planned low-level routes to Desert One. Therefore, the JTF had to develop a catalog of weather phenomena that could likely occur in Iran and the ability to accurately and reliably forecast their occurrence. Difficulty of accurate weather prediction was compounded by the need to accurately forecast Iranian weather that could meet required minimums for a 40-hour period to accommodate the planned two-night operation. Diplomatic initiative, moon phase, and other “windows” exacerbated the problem. The JTF weather team researched and identified hazardous weather that aircrews could encounter in Iran. Among these was the phenomenon of suspended dust actually encountered along a 200-nm stretch of the helicopter route. Information extracted form the National Intelligence Survey (NIS 33, 34-Iran and Afghanistan) July 1970 was available to the JTF in December 1979 and was eventually included in the OPLAN weather annex. A table in this annex indicated, by location and month, the frequency of suspended-dust occurrences. Helicopter pilots, however, were surprised when they encountered the dust, were unprepared to accurately assess its impact on their flight, and stated that they were not advised of the phenomenon. C-130 pilots were also unaware of the possibility of encountering suspended dust.
JTF Rationale. The AWS team was assigned to the JTF J-2 section and did not have direct contact with the helicopter and C-130 aircrews. Weather information was passed through an intelligence officer to the pilots on regular visits to the training sites. However, pilots with extensive C-130 and H-53 experience on the JTF J-5 section had direct access to AWS personnel. Information flow to the mission pilots was filtered as a result of organizational structure. The traditional relationship between pilots and weather forecasters was severed. This was done to enhance OPSEC.
Alternative. The question to be addressed is not where the fault lay for the lack of aircrew knowledge but, more importantly, what should be done in future situations where there exists a paucity of weather information and the price of failure is high. Air Weather Service meteorologists can be denied information in several ways: (1) a closed society does not release information, (2) the phenomenon is so infrequent that it had never before been observed in recorded history (e.g., Mount St. Helen’s ash), or (3) the area of interest is so sparsely populated that although the phenomenon occurs frequently, and perhaps predictably, it is not observed by “civilized” inhabitants and therefore not recorded. The suspended dust encountered along the helicopter route falls more appropriately into the third category. If they were fully aware of the high degree of uncertainty associated with limited data and the attendant risk, mission planners should have more aggressively pursued options that reduced this uncertainty to a
manageable and acceptable degree. One cannot build a data base overnight; it takes years of observations to accurately and reliably predict weather patterns. Therefore, active measures could have been pursued. Of equal importance, the interplay of meteorologist and operator is the process that most often surfaces the questions that need to be answered—the uncertainties that size risk. In this regard, the AWS team had little or no direct interface with the mission pilots—they were both exclusively compartmented. By and large, an intelligence officer passed weather information to the pilots. Operators were placed in a receive only mode—forecasters and weather researchers received no direct feedback. The group would have required direct interface between mission pilots and their supporting weather team.
Implications. The negative aspects of the review group’s alternative impact on OPSEC and administrative procedures. The AWS officer would have had to make frequent trips to the training sites for direct interface, or a second weather officer could have been temporarily assigned to the western United States training site with the aircrews. It is unlikely that either of these alternatives would have compromised OPSEC. On the other hand, there is no assurance that face-to-face interaction would have surfaced the dust phenomenon or made pilots more aware. However, the group believes that direct interface between mission pilots and air weather officers would have increased the likelihood of foreknowledge of the suspended dust phenomenon, that informed planners would have more aggressively pursued alternative approaches to reduce and manage this uncertainty, and that pilots encountering the suspended dust would have been better prepared.
Evaluation. The potential for increased awareness of weather phenomenon through better interface with the AWS team on the planning staff must be weighed against the possible OPSEC risk. While it is unlikely that direct interface between AWS personnel and mission pilots could have altered the outcome on the night of 24 April, it is possible that helicopter pilots would have gained insight into the dust phenomenon and might well have made a better informed decision when they encountered it. For example, a decision to abort would have preserved the option to launch the mission at a later time. The larger issue for future consideration is the need for planners to be more sensitive to areas of great uncertainty that could impact significantly on the planned operation and, where possible, to reduce these uncertainties. Yet weather was an uncertain factor, which would lead to the conclusion that the chances for successful helicopter ingress would have been enhanced by any and all means which would have improved the helicopters’ (and their crews’ capabilities to penetrate adverse weather.
Issue 15: Weather reconnaissance
Event. There was serious and justifiable concern about the ability to accurately forecast weather along planned routes to Desert One and the extraction site and less concern about forecast accuracy for Tehran because of the availability of weather predictions for major international airports. Forecasting difficulty was compounded by the need to predict acceptable weather for a two-day period. Accordingly, an AWS team was formed to gather data on Iran. It was tasked to forecast Iranian weather on a regular basis, and its predictions were checked for accuracy and reliability by comparing them with weather photos of the forecasted period. Over time, the team’s ability to forecast with accuracy and reliability was validated by the JTF. Primary interest was focused on visibility, hazards to flight such as storms, ambient light and winds for navigation, and timing. Satellite imagery was extremely useful but incapable of revealing the presence of low-level clouds or other restrictions to visibility hidden beneath an overcast [sky?] and was of limited value at night. Nevertheless, there was evidently sufficient confidence in the forecaster’s ability to predict VMC and the frequency of VMC so that alternative means to VFR flight procedures were not pursued. The weather forecast for the night of 24 April did not predict reduced visibility over extended distance of the helicopter route. Uninformed and unprepared to cope with the extremely low visibilities encountered, the leader paused, the flight became separated, Helicopter #5 aborted, and all helicopters reaching Desert One were appreciably late.
JTF Rationale. The JTF believed that the probability of VMC for the helicopter ingress was reasonably high, and that the AWS team could accurately forecast the en route weather. Therefore, the helicopter ingress would be accomplished by visual navigation using night vision goggles. If the helicopters encountered weather that could not safely be penetrated using visual navigation with night vision goggles, the flight—and mission—would be aborted. The use of a weather reconnaissance aircraft had the disadvantage of being one more sortie over the helicopter route that could arouse attention. This risk to OPSEC was considered to override any advantage to be gained, in view of what appeared to be a simple and straightforward approach to handling weather contingencies.
Alternative. COMJTF and his air component staff had the means to obtain more timely and accurate weather data. Weather reconnaissance is a proven and often used means of accurately determining weather along flight routes with a paucity of weather reporting stations and high risk of incomplete knowledge. In hindsight, a weather reconnaissance C-130 would have encountered the dust phenomenon in advance of the helicopters and assessed its magnitude and impact before the helicopters would have to penetrate the area of reduced visibility.It is purely conjecture at this point, but full knowledge of what the helicopters would encounter, balanced against their planning and training for VMC flight, may have caused COMJTF to order an abort. Although useful in a macro sense, satellite weather imagery often has proven to be neither accurate nor timely enough to meet operational requirements on a high-risk mission. It is therefore believed that information provided by a C-130 weather reconnaissance of the RH-53D route could have reduced the risk margin.
Implications. On the negative side, the C-130 would have been one more sortie overflying the helicopter route and could have alerted ground watchers so that the helicopter flight would have been visually detected. On the positive side, weather reconnaissance could have provided COMJTF with more accurate and timely information on which to base a decision on whether or not to abort that night and try again within the available window.
Evaluation. Weather reconnaissance along the exact helicopter route would have provided COMJTF with precise information on the prevailing weather, and influenced a decision to continue at that juncture or to wait for more favorable conditions. The group considered that provisions for handling weather contingencies could and should have been enhanced. The weather reconnaissance was one option that cost nothing in additional aircraft, fuel, or crew requirements, although there were OPSEC considerations.
Issue 16: C-130 pathfinders
Event. During flight from respective launch points to Desert One, the C-130s made landfall in the same general vicinity and at approximately the same time as the helicopters. The helicopter force was much more austerely prepared for long-range, low-level night navigation. Their crews did not include navigators, and the aircraft were not equipped with TFR or FLIR. They were equipped with the PINS and OMEGA systems. The crews had received only limited training and expressed low confidence in the equipment and their ability to employ it. The primary method of navigation for the helicopters was dead reckoning using NVGs to terrain follow. There was serious and justifiable concern about the ability to accurately forecast weather along planned low-level routes to Desert One and the extraction site. There was understandably somewhat less concern about forecast accuracy for Tehran because weather predictions for major international airports were readily available. Moreover, the route from the coastal penetration to Desert One was over sparsely populated desert. Forecasting difficulty was compounded by the need to predict the weather for a two-day period. Accordingly, a weather team was formed to gather data on Iran. It was tasked to forecast Iranian weather on a regular basis. The predictions were checked for accuracy and reliability. Over time, the team’s ability to forecast with accuracy and reliability was validated to the JTF’s satisfaction. Primary interest was focused on visibility and hazards to flight such as storms, ambient light and winds for navigation, and timing. Satellite imagery was useful but incapable of revealing the presence of low-level clouds hidden beneath a higher level and was of limited value at night. There was evidently sufficient confidence in the forecaster’s ability to predict VMC and the frequency of VMC that alternative means to VFR flight were not pursued. The weather forecast for the night of 24 April did not predict reduced visibility over extended distances of the helicopter route. Uninformed and therefore not well prepared to cope with the extremely low visibilities encountered, the leader paused, the flight became separated, Helicopter #5 aborted, and all helicopters reaching Desert One were appreciably late.
JTF Rationale. With limitations of the navigation equipment available in the RH-53D, the JTF gained confidence in the ability of helicopter crews to navigate overlong distance at night under VMC using NVGs during the training phase in the western United States. The JTF was comfortable that the weather would not be a limiting factor for mission success because of the predicted high frequency of VMC along the helicopter route. Use of a C-130 pathfinder for the helicopters was not considered because of the confidence in the high probability of VMC weather and because of the feeling that the use of a C-130 pathfinder would be therefore unnecessarily complicating, especially with the wide difference in operating airspeeds.
Alternative. The alternative plan would provide for a C-130/helicopter rendezvous at or just after landfall. C-130 aircraft are capable of flying at speeds compatible with RH-53D helicopters and acting as pathfinders for them. Implications. Using C-130s as pathfinders from the point of entry into Iran to Desert One would have increased their fuel consumption. Increased C-130 fuel consumption would be somewhat compensated for by a greater assurance that the helicopters would arrive and arrive on time, thus requiring shorter ground times for C-130s and helicopters.
Evaluation. C-130 pathfinders for the RH-53Ds would have increased the probability of all flyable helicopters arriving at Desert One regardless of unforeseen weather along the route short of a major storm. In retrospect, pathfinders would most likely have enabled Helicopter #5 to reach Desert One and the mission to proceed. Moreover, pathfinders might have averted the fuel situation that arose due to late arriving helicopters. In addition, if existing weather along the route had been of such severity to make it prudent to discontinue the mission, pathfinders could have contributed to a better informed early decision, preserving the option to delay by one or more days.
Issue 20: Alternative to the Desert One site
Event. Early in the hostage rescue planning, it became clear that a desert rendezvous in Iran to refuel helicopters and onload the assault force had many advantages. Accordingly, the JTF initiated a search for a suitable C-130 landing site. The site had to be located within a prescribed distance of Tehran; to have the necessary dimensions to land, park, and launch C-130s and RH-53Ds; and to satisfy a geological estimate of satisfactory bearing surface.
JTF Rationale. To succeed, the plan called for sufficient hours of nautical darkness with some moonlight, and temperatures that would enable the helicopters to lift the fuel, equipment, and assault force believed necessary to successfully execute the plan. The window where all these environmental factors overlapped closed in late spring. On the basis of the site assessment, the JTF anticipated that the force at Desert One would be observed by passing vehicles. They had a workable plan to handle personnel from these vehicles during the short period that secrecy had to be maintained, until the rescue force reached the hostages.
Alternative. The Desert One plan was feasible, but the risks of compromise along the road were high. The vehicles and helicopter abandoned along the road would more than likely draw attention to the scene and ultimately to the C-130 wheel ruts. As a result, COMJTF was on the horns of a dilemma: the risk of compromise was increased if the mission proceeded and was certain if the force withdrew. Clearly, another site away from roads would have markedly reduced compromising the rescue mission in its early phases.
Implications. The group’s alternative depended on the identification of other suitable site(s) clear of roads and inhabited areas. Intelligence planners for the JTF had concluded none existed, and the group has no basis for believing that the search for alternative sites was anything less than thorough. A perfunctory review by the group did not confirm the availability of any alternative potential sites. Nevertheless, traffic on the road that bisected Desert One operations was almost certain, and there was the probability of abandoning a helicopter or other equipment.
Evaluation. Hostage rescue in a hostile environment carries great risk for the hostages and their liberators. Accordingly, the planners should take every precaution to reduce risk. A refueling site in the desert was an integral part of the only feasible rescue plan, and Desert One apparently had no suitable alternative in a remote location. Therefore, the JTF’s solution appears to be the only reasonable one, but the group concludes that it probably carried more risk than the JTF had assessed.
Issue 22: Classified material safeguard
Event. In the event of mission abort at Desert One, JTF guidance called for pilots, crews, and radio operators to return their helicopter and material to Nimitz, taking appropriate action to protect classified [material]. The plan proved infeasible [unfeasible?] when one helicopter crashed into a C-130, resulting in fire, casualties, and an overall hazardous situation. The on-scene commander decided to withdraw the entire force by the remaining C-130 aircraft as soon as possible, leaving the five undamaged helicopters at Desert One. Two of the helicopters located in the southern refuel zone were properly sanitized of classified material by the individuals responsible. The other three helicopters were located in the northern refuel zone in close proximity (within 100-150 feet) to the crash and fire. Personnel responsible for the classified material in those helicopters attempted to return to them but were told to immediately board the C-130s to expedite withdrawal. Failure to sanitize the helicopters resulted in loss of classified material. There is no evidence or any indication that the on-scene commander was aware that classified material was being left behind.
JTF Rationale. JTF guidance, coupled with military SOP and training, appeared sufficient to provide for adequate protection of classified material. The decision by the Desert One on-scene commander to expedite withdrawal of personnel by the remaining C-130 aircraft was made in the interest of troop safety, to protect remaining assets, and to minimize risk of detection.
Alternative. The review group’s alternative would have been to refine command and control procedures at Desert One to assure adherence to provisions of the JTF plan for handling of classified material (see Issue 21).
Implications. An attempt to return to the helicopters and to sanitize them could have cost additional lives, increased the risk of discovery and of damage to the escape aircraft, and delayed departure. However, the helicopters were not destroyed, there remained a requirement to protect classified material, and a period in excess of 20 minutes was available to sanitize the helicopters.
Evaluation. The loss of classified material had no direct impact on the success of this mission. However, such loss reflects unfavorably on the performance of the personnel involved. Their actions resulted in possible enemy exploitation of sensitive material, including its use for propaganda ends.
Issue 23: Destruct devices on rescue mission helicopters
Event. Helicopter #6 developed mechanical problems en route to Desert One and landed in the desert short of destination. Ground personnel tasked with responsibility for helicopter destruction were not available. An unforeseen accident and ensuing conflagration at Desert One prevented the on-scene commander from implementing the helicopter destruction plan because he perceived it to be too risky. As a result, five RH-53Ds were abandoned intact.
JTF Rationale. As planning proceeded, an option to destroy the helicopters in Iran, should a contingency situation warrant, was considered. This contingency called for individuals to place thermite grenades in the helicopters if their destruction was called for and then to detonate them. This option was never implemented at Desert One because of the perceived danger of exploding helicopters and ammunition to personnel and aircraft evacuating the site and to Iranians aboard a nearby bus.
Alternative. The review group believes it prudent to have detailed plans for contingency destruction of equipment in missions similar to the Iranian rescue. Providing the option for contingency destruction is most important when the equipment is to be abandoned in a hostile country. There is good reason to believe explosives, when properly installed, are no more dangerous to crew and passengers than the onboard fuel supply. Moreover, explosives for use in destroying the helicopters and breaching the Embassy had to be carried aboard several, if not all, helicopters to insure availability. Therefore, it is a moot point as to what explosives were carried onboard and where they were placed. On at least one previous rescue mission (Son Tay), explosives for helicopter self-destruction were placed onboard at the outset. The helicopter to be abandoned was fitted with explosives and detonators. Electrical initiators were placed apart from the explosives, and the electrical leads left disconnected. Aircrew members destroyed the helicopter, when necessary, by simply connecting the initiator to the explosives and activating a built-in timing device. With regard to aircrew reluctance to have similar devices to the ones used in the Son Tay raid aboard their helicopters, Iranian-mission aircrews interviewed stated that this procedure was acceptable to them. Moreover, they admitted that most explosives were less of a danger than other hazardous material carried on-board mission helicopters; e.g., fuel.Equipping rescue mission helicopters with easily removable, separated, and disconnected explosive devices and initiators should not have jeopardized safety and would have enhanced the ability to destroy helicopters at any point in the mission.
Implications. Negative implications of the group’s proposal are nil. Aircrews would have had to have been trained to connect and operate the destruct devices planned for use in their helicopters. There was ample time available at the western United States training site to accomplish this training. Flight safety would not have been compromised. On the positive side, the proposed alternative could have eliminated the requirement to have individuals present to handle the explosives, reduced response time, and provided the option to destroy the helicopters at any point in the mission. Thus the group’s alternative would have enabled Helicopter #6’s crew to destroy their aircraft in the desert if called for and could have provided greater opportunity to destroy all helicopters abandoned at Desert One.
Evaluation. Equipping helicopters with destruct devices would not have altered the circumstances that ultimately led to aborting the rescue mission. However, the lack of destruct capability severely limited the Desert One on-scene commander’s ability to execute destruction when an unforeseen contingency developed.
נערך לאחרונה ע"י strong1 בתאריך 01-10-2014 בשעה 00:00.