Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy Reading in the New Year

By Chester Campbell

When you read this, it'll be Anno Domini 2013. I'm looking forward to lots of good writing and reading from my Murderous Musings colleagues during the year ahead. When I started this blog back in the summer of 2008, I had no idea it would still be around nearly five years later. According to Statcounter, we had 287 viewers today for a total of 15,891 during December. Since we started counting, we've had a total of 302,363 visitors. Not bad.

For my part, the new year will bring out the last book in my Post Cold War political thriller trilogy, Overture to Disaster. I wrote a post early in December about the conspiracy that forms the background for the story but only hinted at one track of the plot. Actually, it was the part of the book I particularly enjoyed writing, since it tied in with my Air Force experience.

This segment of the book starts in September of 1991 in Washington, DC, where Gen. Philip Ross Patton, the Air Force chief of staff, is preparing for the launch of Operation Easy Street. This was the time of the Lebanon hostage crisis, when offshoots of Hezbollah held American and European hostages. The militants were strong allies of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In my story, the chief Iranian contact with the hostage takers wants to defect and has arranged with the CIA to take his family to the U.S.

Operation Easy Street involved an Air Force MH-53J Pave Low III Special Operations helicopter flying a Delta Force team into a small town in the Zagros Mountains of Iran, an area still friendly to Americans. Special Forces personnel had provided the townspeople with life-saving aid in the wake of a deadly earthquake back in the sixties, during an era that found the U.S. Army operating there as guests of the late Shah.

I had been an Air Force intelligence officer in the Korean War and  knew a bit about Special Operations units, but I did a lot of research while writing the book. One of my three main characters was the helicopter pilot, Col. Warren (Roddy) Rodman. He had helped kick off the air campaign in Desert Storm by piloting a Pave Low III that guided the Army's Apache helicopters into Iraq to knock out Saddam Hussein's early-warning radars.

In Operation Easy Street, he flew his helicopter from Kuwait into Iran at night and followed the spine of the mountains at minimum altitude to avoid Iranian radars. The Pave Low was strictly state of the art for this type of mission. Its AN/APQ-158 terrain-following and terrain-avoidance radar, plus the nose-mounted FLIR (forward-looking infrared) system, gave it the ability to fly right on the deck in total darkness. Using Navstar Global Positioning System satellites, the crew could plot the aircraft's position at any time within ten meters. 

The helicopter flew without lights and in strict radio silence. However, the crew remained in contact with the command center at the White House via a FLTSATCOM (U.S. Navy Fleet Satellite Communications System) satellite, which would relay any instructions. Should the National Security Agency's radio monitors detect evidence that Iran had penetrated the operation, Colonel Rodman would be notified to abort the mission.

I sent a copy of that section of the book to an operations officer at Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field in Florida to verify the accuracy of my descriptions of what happened during the mission.

The main thrust of the story was that General Patton found himself under heavy stress from a member of Congress at the time of Easy Street. After being notified that the satellite bearing the National Command Channel had malfunctioned, requiring a change to an alternate, Patton received a threatening call from the senator, rattling him so completely that he neglected to pass word of the change to Colonel Rodman. When NSA reported the operation had been compromised, the message failed to reach the helicopter.

You'll have to wait for the book to find out what else happened. It should be out in a couple of months as an ebook. Meanwhile, enjoy all the books our Murderous Musings crew has written.

Visit me at Mystery Mania.


1 comment:

Jaden Terrell said...

No fair, Chester. I know you're the master of the cliffhanger chapter break, but now even your blog posts are cliffhangers! :o)