Author Topic: Task Force Cordon  (Read 4653 times)

Offline Silver Fox

  • Talk to me Goose!
Task Force Cordon
« on: February 25, 2012, 10:50:44 AM »
43 men huddled in their fighting positions high on the ridge. 29 of them were the survivors of a platoon-strength unit from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment. 10 others were elite commandos of JTF-2 and 4 were the survivors of Husky 03, the last resupply Hercules which had braved the distant Iranian S-400 SAM system to bring much needed supplies. 4 kilometers away, most of the distance marked by sheer cliffs, lay the open field which had been the troop’s LZ for the MH-53K choppers coming to pick them up.The troops had carried out their mission; the pipeline pump station they had been tasked to disable was wrecked, as was the road bridge the Kemal Brigade would have used to reach Bandar-Abbas. The local Iranian commander was craftier than most though, he couldn’t directly target the fast moving commandos or their CSOR support, but he could do something almost as good.He targeted their LZ with persistent nerve agent.They hadn’t been there yet; the area was almost completely devoid of habitation and there were no immediate casualties. No one could complain that the Iranians had used chemical weapons against barren soil. One man did now lay dead on the LZ though; Cpl Serge Levesque had been point guard for the withdrawing Canadians when he walked into the contaminated area. His sacrifice had alerted his comrades to their danger. They had had to withdraw elsewhere, and no other useable LZ existed in this mountainous area. So they climbed the ridge, taking the high ground.By no means was the danger over for the beleaguered troops. Low on supplies, cut-off from help and exhausted, the troops had just been informed that the Kemal Brigade had reached the destroyed bridge with engineering equipment. 3 days, they’d been told, just 3 days… then the armour of the Kemal Brigade would reach them.And crush them…
 
“72 hours! 72 hours! Gentlemen, we will have Task Force Cordon off that ridge in 72 hours or you will all wish you had stood and died with them.” Major General R.T. Soest (US Army), wasn’t kidding, he abhorred failure and the greatest failure he could imagine was a commander who lead his troops to slaughter. MGen Soest reported to US Southern Command, but he was directly in charge of all Allied SpecOps teams in the Persian Gulf. That made the Canadians his men. Men out there that were going to die, unless the men in this room could find a solution.
 
“Sir, we are examining all options.” If Colonel Ernst Lӧwen felt nervous giving his ill-tempered boss bad news it didn’t show. Perhaps he wasn’t nervous, after all the Luftwaffe would always take him back if being Aviation Liaison to Allied Special Forces didn’t work out. “We simply have to acknowledge that we have exhausted all rational options and numerous irrational ones as well.” In truth, Lӧwen wasn’t nervous. Not after the morning briefing yesterday, the one where he had had to explain to an enraged Major General how Task Force Cordon was isolated in a region where the primary LZ was contaminated, the secondary within the swept area of fire from an Iranian S-400 SAM… and the tertiary had turned out to be too small to land anything with the power to reach it. “I will entertain any option at this point, Sir. If there is an isolated pig farmer in Lower Slovenia with a workable suggestion I will personally pay for the donkey he needs to ride to reach the nearest telephone.” Lӧwen wasn’t kidding, at least not quite. He would, after all, attempt to expense that damned donkey.
 
Soest seemed to calm, slightly. “OK! OK! I know we’re all tired, and we’re all trying. I just refuse to accept that we have to abandon those men.” He gathered himself and continued, “Is there anything we haven’t tried? Anything at all?”“Sir?” The speaker was Lt Col Scott Dempsey from CSOR, “I have been instructed to advise you that Commodore Hardesty will be issuing a FLASH CANFORGEN message right after this conference if we haven’t found a solution. He’s going to open the floor, Canadian Forces wide, to suggestions.” FLASH traffic was the highest message priority other than FLASH OVERRIDE, an immediate general war warning and CANFORGEN meant that every Canadian Forces member would be required to read it. Security be damned, Hardesty wanted his men off that ridge.Soest visibly flinched, OpSec concerns warring with concerns for the trapped men. “I understand Colonel. My compliments to the Commodore and please tell him to add my endorsement to his message.” At least Soest could make sure the responsibility for any security violations was his, not the Canadian theatre commander’s. Dempsey responded with a fractional nod and “Thank you Sir.”, but it was clear he felt gratitude for the Major General’s stance.
 
The General let his eyes meet those of each man in the room in turn. He saw no evasion, but no hope either. He straightened and addressed his staff, “Gentlemen, this conference is concluded. I will not waste time that might be better spent seeking broader counsel. Good Day.” He then turned and strode from the room. More than one of the assembled officers reflected on the old military adage; “Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way”. It was time for the staff to exercise option three.
 
Commodore Hardesty’s message reached Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake at 0720 hrs local. By 0730 messengers had been summoned to the Base Communications Centre to distribute copies of the message to every squadron, unit and section. From the Aerospace Engineering and Test Establishment (AETE), Canada’s trials and development unit, came Corporal Dave Smalls. Instead of the normal admonition to not read the message, Smalls was told by the Comm Section NCO to read the message enroute. By the time he got back to AETE an idea was forming. He had no idea if it would work, but there was a test stand in the hangar he could use to check.
 
When the message reached AETE the CO immediately called a conference of his Engineers and senior Technicians. He was briefing the group when a bellowed “EUR-EFFING-REKA!!” rang through the hangar. The CO looked out his office window briefly and then turned and almost ran out of his office. He called over his shoulder at the startled men, “C’mon! Cpl Smalls thinks he’s found something, and he just might be right!”  Five seconds later the only sounds in the vacant office was the drips of coffee hitting the floor from a spilled cup.
 
The men gathered around Cpl Smalls where he had been working on the CC-138 landing gear swing rig. The CO looked at his very junior NCO, the man was practically manic. A good sign he mused, he’s a good Tech and he’s sure he’s found something. “Dave” he said “tell us what you’ve come up with.”Smalls didn’t even hesitate; he just dove into his explanation. “Sir, the message mentions a 1700 foot road tunnel at one end of the ledge the grunts are on. A Guardian can use that tunnel as a runway. They’ll need a few Guardians to lift the lot out, but they can do it!” Smalls took a breath and rushed on; “Sir, the tunnel is not quite straight. But it is no more bent than some of the far north runways in use every day.”“Corporal!” The CO was not amused, “Do you really believe nobody thought of that? The tunnel has an 18’ roof profile. The Guardian is over 19’ tall. You simply can’t shorten the tail enough, and retain directional stability. It won’t work, the Guardian is too tall!”Small was almost defiant; “Sir, you’re missing something. A Guardian is 19’ plus only when its gear is down. Two simple mods and it should be able to operate with the gear up, or almost up.”The CO stopped dead, he had been in the process of turning away, but now he turned back. “Dave, show me what you’re thinking of.”
 
The CO’s interest started a general shuffling, engineers and maintainers striving for a better look. A lively debate ensued, but the young corporal met all challengers. He was respectful, but he wasn’t taking no for an answer… the solution to the problem was here.90 minutes later and all objections had been overcome, except one. The lower antenna array was going to get ripped off on landing in this configuration. This was solved by a civvie engineer who pointed out that during the radar trials the original pod was too big, the lower antenna had been moved to the rear drop hatch position. By removing that drop hatch right before landing the antenna would be safe, the hatch could be reinstalled after the takeoff. No harm done.The CO was satisfied and very congratulatory to Cpl Smalls; “Good Work Dave! I’ll get a message off to the CSOR Guardian types at Bandar-Abbas, They’ll jump on the mod immediately.” Smalls stopped him with one last comment; “Sir, I should have explained. It will have to be the Navy birds, CSOR types have a different equipment fit and they just wouldn’t be safe trying this.” The two walked off deep in conversation. Smalls was right, it would have to be the Navy birds, the CO was just glad he wouldn’t have to explain that to the CSOR types at Bandar-Abbas in person. This wasn’t going to go over well in some circles.
 
The conversation at the 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron detachment was not pleasant. The Guardian detachment CO was livid. The Navy was going to fly a SpecOps mission instead of letting SpecOps types do it? They flew the same aircraft type, why did the Navy get the glory? The conversation came to a screeching halt when it was pointed out that only the Navy birds carried the Deck Centreline Tracking (DCT) computer. CSOR types could fit it, but the Navy pilots used it everyday and their birds were already fitted. It was critical to the mission and that was that.
 
Aboard HMCS Kapyong and her sister, the recently arrived HMCS Vimy Ridge, every bird but one was being prepped. Kestrel 21 just wouldn’t fly straight after its frantic rollercoaster ride of a week ago. It would remain on board this time. The mods took only 5 hours, there really wasn’t a significant change. With the mods complete and briefings done it was time for a short hop to the staging field at Bandar-Abbas, and then came enforced crew rest until mission time just before dawn.
 
First to take off from Bandar-Abbas were two CP-144F BACN (Battlefield Aerial Communication Node) aircraft. One was needed as a communication relay in the mountainous terrain, from 50,000’ the BACN could keep all players in touch. It was going to be crucial to success on this day, so a spare would remain airborne at all times. Next up were the Guardians, ten in all. Nobody was taking any chances, four could lift off the trapped men, the rest were spares.As soon as Hoser 21 and Hoser 22, the two BACN aircraft, they split up. ’21 was to hold 50 miles north of Bandar-Abbas, while ’22 continued on to the orbit location another 75 miles further north.
 
Hoser 22 checked in with Task Force Cordon and passed along instructions on what they would need to accomplish prior to the arrival of the pickup force. The soldiers were confused, the orders made no sense; they were to use their remaining stock of IR-reflective marking paint to mark a centreline through the tunnel. Painting the line wasn’t the problem, each of the Special Operations troopers carried two spray cans of the paint to use in marking targets that had been rigged for demolition.Next up, was the instruction to string their remaining stock of IR Chemlites along the roof of the tunnel. Obviously they wanted something to be able to see the line, but what wasn’t made clear to the troopers. The final requirement made the least sense to the troopers; they were to take one of their laser-designators and position it in accordance with precise instructions. On command, the designator was to be turned on and left on until the relief force arrived.
 
A strange reversal of authority took place, up until now the crew of Husky 03 had been amateurs in the business of soldiering they faced. Now; they didn’t know what was coming, but they did know what they had been asked to build. Conferring with the CSOR platoon commander, they quickly explained as much as they had figured out. The CSOR CO was nothing if not decisive, he summoned the JTF-2 operators to him and explained. “Gents, the Air Force is coming to get us. Our guests know the requirements to make that happen and how to get it done so it works. The need about 10 men to get it done, suggestions?”The commandos didn’t need it spelled out, CSOR was more than capable of providing security and the Air Force knew what needed to be done. For the moment, the commandos were the ones available to do grunt work. They turned to the commander of Husky 03 and one of their number simply said “Sir?”
 
45 minutes saw the tasks completed. During that time, the Guardian force had threaded its way through the mountain passes and down the narrow valleys to a point 5 miles away. Now they orbited, shielded from the deadly S-400 system by an intervening ridgeline. On approach to the tunnel they could remain masked, but only to a point. The last mile and a half they would be exposed, at approach speed that meant about 97 seconds exposure. The S-400 would need only 110 seconds to acquire, track, launch and have a missile kill the Guardian.
 
The Guardian crews had been bitter about that exposure; they had wanted to know why the Allies had not simply destroyed the system. The explanation, when finally given, had been less than satisfactory. The Allies had gone into Iran with a very narrow mandate; they were restricted in operations to a very narrow geographical area, and Task Force Cordon was right up against the forward edge. It was the type of environment that got people killed, and never the ones who had created the problem.
 
No matter the political realities, those were in the past. Now they concentrated on the operational realities. A Guardian from Vimy Ridge, Goshawk 02, broke out ahead as the others fell into a tight holding orbit in the protected area. As the Guardian started to maneuver into the approach lane he made the only radio call since takeoff.
 
“Hoser, Goshawk 02, beginning maneuver.”
 
The only acknowledgement was a quick double-click on the radio. The BACN made an immediate call to the Task Force.
 
“Cordon, Hoser, CAB CALL! I say again, CAB CALL!”
 
On the ground the tunnel was quickly cleared and the laser turned on. Then the men stood back and watched an incident in which they were integral players, but would live on in the annals of aviation history. At four minute intervals 5 Guardians popped out of the protective valleys until its sensor turret could see the coherent light from the laser designator. Riding the beam like a glidescope, each aircraft approached the 20 meter touchdown zone just outside the tunnel entrance.
 
At touchdown, seemingly on their bellies, each aircraft twitched as the Deck Centreline Tracking computer caught sight of the line painstaking painted by the stranded men. Designed to help centre aircraft landing on a rolling transport deck, it now served to keep them from swerving into the tunnel walls.
 
Props howling in reverse thrust the Guardians slithered down the tunnel. Each succeeding aircraft stopped just outside the far end of the tunnel before being manhandled around to face the other way. They were then pushed back as far as possible to make room for the plane already nearing the touchdown point.
 
Once the last plane had been turned, it was repositioned at the mouth of the tunnel. Quickly boarded by its assigned passengers the engines were brought to full power, and once again under command of the DCT it roared down the tunnel. Emerging from the tunnel, the pilot pulled back on his stick and the Guardian leapt into the air. Quickly diving to get back under cover the pilot began the tortuous trip back down the valleys to distant Bandar-Abbas.As soon as the last plane was clear came the last radio call;
 
“Hoser, Goshawk 02. Maneuver complete.”
 
Again only two clicks answered the call, but aboard BACN the news was passed back to National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa almost instantly via satellite. Also receiving the news was Allied Command (Persian Gulf). In both locations proper military decorum broke down into cheering that tooks several minutes to control.
 
Returning to Bandar-Abbas the unladen Guardians landed first and taxied off to one side of the waiting throngs. Then came the 5 Guardians carrying Task Force Cordon, lining up facing the official reception committee. It wasn’t until the last Guardian had shut down that the first door opened. The men deplaned and formed ranks without a word being said. Advancing in review order, they halted 5 paces back from the Commanding General, Allied Forces Iran. Snapping off a crisp salute, the CSOR Commanding Officer spoke his first words;
 
“Task Force Cordon Reporting as Ordered, Sir!”

Offline apophenia

  • Perversely enjoys removing backgrounds.
  • Patterns? What patterns?
Re: Task Force Cordon
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2012, 12:02:28 PM »
Great stuff! And nice to see BACN in the works. I was suprised by the CP-144F designation. I was expecting to see something related to the USAF E-11A  ;)

I've done some visual musing on your half-retracted u/c ... which I've put on your Malignant Mustelids thread.

http://beyondthesprues.com/Forum/index.php?topic=884.msg10051#msg10051
You better stock up on water, canned goods off the shelves
And loot some for the old folks who can't loot for themselves
The doorbell's ringing, could be the elves
But it's probably the werewolf, it's quarter to twelve
And when it's midnight, ... the wolf bites

Offline Silver Fox

  • Talk to me Goose!
Re: Task Force Cordon
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2012, 10:49:09 PM »
USAF E-11As would have worked, but using "Hoser" as a callsign for Canadian BACNs was just too much fun. :)
Take Off Eh!