Secret Preparations for Eagle Claw

By Tom Bradley, Col, USAF (Retired)

This article was first published Nov 2013 in the Air Commando Journal, Vol 2, Issue 4 page 23.

The MC-130Es (Combat Talon) assigned to the 7th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) were involved in the Desert One mission from the very beginning of 1980. From early January until mid-April, 3 of their 4 assigned aircraft deployed from their base at Rhein Main Air Base, Germany, to Wadi Kena Air Base, Egypt, designated Operating Location Alpha, (OLA), for the operation.

During that time, the necessary flight routes overflying France and Italy, transiting Naval Air Station Sigonella, and undetected and clandestine routes between Sigonella and Wadi Kena down adjoining air control boundaries between Greece and Northern Africa were investigated and developed. With 7th SOS personal representatives in Italian and Egyptian Ministry of Defense and Civil Aviation Administration headquarters, these flight routes were established for the future use for the positioning of the Air Force Component forces in Desert One.

Daily flights out of Wadi Kena from January through April, 1980, provided the signature for “normal” air operations required for operations security and communications security to cover future Desert One air activities.

One specific and extremely sensitive mission involved a 7th SOS Combat Talon equipped with the Fulton Surface to Air Recovery (STAR) system. On 30 March 1980, the aircraft was flown from Wadi Kena to Seeb International Airport in Northern Oman. On the night of 31 March, a joint CIA/USAF three-man team, consisting of Jim Rhyne, Bud McBroom and John Carney flew a civilian DHC-6 Twin Otter into central Iran to find and prepare the landing site for Phase 1 of Desert One. The Combat Talon and crew, with a small support team sat strip alert, for the possible rescue of these three in the event of mechanical or other problems involving the Twin Otter. The 7th SOS crew and aircraft were prepared to fly to the location in Iran, drop a two-man and a one-man STAR kit and recover the personnel back to Seeb.

The Twin Otter and crew safely returned to Seeb on the morning of 1 April having successfully completed this critical and clandestine mission, and the 7th SOS crew returned to Wadi Kena.

This article was first published Nov 2013 in the Air Commando Journal, Vol 2, Issue 4 page 23.

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