Jane's: Plane Modified For Iran Hostage Rescue
LONDON - The U.S. military modified a huge transport plane with rockets to land like a helicopter so it could attempt a second rescue of 53 U.S. hostages in Iran in 1980, Jane's Defense Weekly disclosed today.
The work was done after a helicopter collided with a C-130 military transport in the Iranian desert, killing eight U.S. servicemen, in a first attempt to rescue the hostages held in Tehran.
Jane's said a second rescue attempt never went ahead because the modified C-130 Hercules transport crashed on the runway after a rocket fired prematurely on a test flight, ripping off the plane's right wing.
While a second C-130 - also modified as a short takeoff and landing aircraft - was being prepared, Iran announced that it planned to release the hostages, Jane's said.
Gary Sick, national security adviser under President Carter, said a second rescue mission was never authorized.
"There certainly was contingency planning for a second rescue mission. That plan was never formally presented to the president and never attempted," Sick said by telephone from New York City.
According to Jane's, after the first disaster the Air Force launched a $30 million program to land an aircraft in a space the size of a football field with a 33-foot-high obstacle at either end.
Jane's did not say where the modified plane was to have landed in Tehran.
Engineers at Lockheed-Georgia, which manufactured the C-130, carried out radical modifications: Four pairs of anti-submarine rockets were mounted around the cockpit, which enabled the plane to slow down, cushioned by four pairs of Shrike missiles, Jane's said.
The magazine published frames from video footage showing the abortive operational test on Oct. 29, 1980.
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