Part 6 and Part 7

YV-411, airborne SE of Martinique.

There is a saying in aviation that if everything seems to be going perfectly, then look out, for something really bad is about happen. These were the thoughts of the Beechcraft’s pilot as the plane was inbound to its illicit rendezvous. Cockpit lights turned so low that they were almost off, he flew through a moonless, hazy night – few stars, no horizon to speak of and he was uncomfortable and growing more so by the minute.

“Something’s not right” he announced to his copilot, who at the moment was busily engaged with binoculars, looking for the faintest of lights below, “I’m going to make a slow turn to see if we’re being followed”
“No, not now – I think I see something” the copilot replied
Viper 02
“Yeah, I think I have it” the WSO said to his pilot “Looks like YV-411, but something’s not right about it – it looks like it’s been taped or painted over something, but I can’t tell for sure with the NVGs”
“OK, you ready to call it – I need to back off here so we don’t spook him” the pilot replied.
“Steeljaw, Viper, let’s go secure”
“Switching”
“OK Steeljaw, Viper 2. Contact is a Beech King Air, either a 200 or 300, lights out. Registration is YV-411. At least two occupants can’t tell if anyone is in the cabin section or not. We’re dropping back to 1 mile in trail.”
YV-411
And there, for a fleeting second he felt a stirring, an unease that he couldn’t put his finger on. Others have identified the sensation as “someone walking on their grave” – whatever it was, it was causing the hairs on the back of his neck to stir. Just as he was getting ready to state his intention to make the turn, the copilot picked up the hand-held VHF
“¿Azul, Azul, este es Rojo, usted está listo?”
“Sí estamos listos. Pensamos que oímos aviones a reacción antes, pero no vimos nada.”
‘I knew it’ he thought and began to look harder around the outside of the aircraft, still seeing nothing.
“Debe ser los americanos que se van volando a sus portadores en ejercicios” said the copilot with a shrug, turning to the radio he passed a single word command and a small, dull light appeared just off the nose.
“There is our drop point, I will go back and get the cargo ready to drop” he said getting out of his seat. Moving to the back of the aircraft he called for the pilot to descend and start his run. A gentler popping noise was followed by a rush of noise as the boarding door was opened in preparation for the drop.
Steeljaw 602
“Skipper, target is descending – now showing 10,000 ft and dropping”
“OK, look for a small surface target in that area – that will probably be his drop point” the CICO replied, all the while wondering where the helicopters were.
“Steeljaw, Omaha 21 and 22 checking in”
“Omaha 21, roger, your steer 270 for 28 miles. Single surface contact that vicinity. Suspect aircraft is below Cherubs 9 and orbiting that area. Buster”
YV-411
‘It’s always hard’ he thought, ‘These night drops – so easy to misjudge your altitude, bank a little too steep and then you’re fish food’
The hand held VHF the copilot had left behind was squawking something, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying above the cabin’s ambient noise and was concentrating too hard on keeping them from becoming fish food to pick it up.
Just as quickly the door was closed and all was quiet (relatively) again –

Omaha 21

“There they are, clear as day” the copilot said from the left seat “Left, 11 o’clock, probably 3 miles out.”

“Steeljaw, Omaha – we have a tally on the suspect vessel and aircraft and are inbound”
“Omaha 22, left, 3 miles, drop is in progress – follow me” and with that the helos banked sharply left and began to pick up speed.
‘Won’t get the plane without the Slick tonight’ he was thinking, ‘Maybe we can nab the boat instead’
MB ‘Cabeza de Martillo’ (Hammer Head)
¡Párese!
¡Escuche! ¡Helicópteros!
¡Rápidamente, agarrón lo que dura la bala … tenemos que salir aquí! ¡Mate la luz!
In one swift motion the last dropped bale was dragged onboard and the light extinguished. The first person issuing the commands slammed the throttles forward and the speed boat surged forward, knocking the others off their feet.
Wheeling around to starboard they began the run into Martinique. Off to the left the sun rose suddenly, brightly from the port side
Omaha 22
“They’re running” the plane commander passed to the crew, “Any word on the cutter?”
From the back of the helo came word over the ICS that the cutter was on the other side of the island helping a boater in distress and probably wouldn’t make it.
“21 from 22, no cutter tonight – let’s see if we can get them stop anyway. We’ll spotlight them if you make the low pass and call”
“21, roger”
YV-411
“GO, GO, GO!!” yelled the co-pilot as he jumped into his seat
“¡SALGA AQUÍ – AMERICANOS!”
A bright light appeared at his right, 3 o’clock, temporarily distracting him. The aircraft briefly dropped its right wing, righting suddenly as the co-pilot yanked the controls to the left, over-controlling the input. Suddenly the pilot found himself fighting an aircraft that was on the edge of controllability and a copilot who was more intent on getting away from the sudden appearance of the DEA helicopters than being concerned about their proximity to the deep, black sea…
¡Cerrar y dejan van del yugo de mierda! he yelled ¿Lo tengo – lo tengo, OK? ¡Deje van de los mandos malditos ello! Leaning over he lashed out with his right arm, breaking the co-pilot’s hold on the controls. The aircraft banked steeper to the left momentarily then leveled out on a southwesterly course.
Fire walling the throttles he held the altitude just below a thousand feet for a few minutes while he re-gained his wits and opened distance on the scene of the busted drop.
MB ‘Cabeza de Martillo’
The sound of a helo passed closely overhead, but they didn’t see it, blinded or nearly so by the spotlight.

“OIGA BARCO DE VELOCIDAD, PARE SUS MOTORES Y DISPÓNGASE A SER ALOJADO”

The command was repeated again, but the boat’s driver just laughed and raising a finger in defiance, held his course and speed…they’d make the island easily and since there was no cutter out here (or so it seemed) they wouldn’t be stopped.

Steeljaw 602
“Damn, they’re going to get away” said the RO to no one in particular, but echoing everyone’s thoughts in the plane.
“OK, this one got away but let’s continue tracking the plane” the CICO said, trying to get everyone’s head back in the game. “He’s got to be marginal on gas as it is and will probably try a direct route home. Flight, let’s take a gradual turn to the south-west and follow this guy. I’ll make the call to Panther.”

Omaha 21

“22, 21 We can’t hold this course much longer, looks like this one’s going to get away.”

“21, roger – won’t be much of a haul though as he left a couple bales in the water and looks like he had only 3 or 4 onboard. Someone’s going to be unhappy tonight”

Steeljaw 602

“Panther, Steeljaw up SATCOM”

“Steeljaw, Panther go ahead.”
“Roger, suspect go fast appears to have successfully fled, but without a complete load. We are still tracking the returning King Air before having to recover – he’s heading strait for the Colombian/Venezuelan coast. Any word on our overflight OK yet?”
“Steeljaw, Panther, negative overflight tonight, but looks good for tomorrow and subsequent. Continue tracking suspect aircraft until forced to RTB.”
“Steeljaw, wilco, out”
‘Not tonight’ the CO thought, ‘but soon enough – you’ll try it again soon enough and luck won’t be with you then’ as he continued to follow the faint trace that was Beech King Air, YV-411…

To Be Continued…