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HIND Helicopter Heist–Hidden Aspects 1

There is a branch of Operations Research called Search Theory, and its purpose is to find optimized ways to locate things, be they German U-boats during World War II or facial recognition system computer files now. Classically, searches fall into two categories: uncued and cued. Before continuing, some disambiguation is necessary, for it's easy to confuse “cued” with “queued”, but the difference is real and important. The first means knowing, to one degree or another where to look for whatever's sought. The second means lined up one behind another, as for a show, a movie, etc. This post is about the former. But to get back to it, you first need to understand how that ties to the clandestine recovery (the HIND helicopter heist) of a terrifying looking, highly lethal attack helicopter which is still a major danger to this day.

Specifically, it's about the hidden side of a US intelligence coup (an astounding story worthy of a movie) that brought us a great Cold War prize, in the form of an export model Mi-25 attack helicopter, known in spook and military circles as a HIND D. The HIND D was and still is a fearsome beast, armed with a 12.7 mm autocannon in a turret under the nose, plus antitank missiles, rockets, bombs, chemical or smoke spray tanks, toxin weapons, gun pods and more on stub wing hardpoints or launch rails .

During my decade plus in military aerospace as a Soviet Threat Analyst, it was part of my professional beat, if you will. Decades later, I got to see an ex-Warsaw Pact pair of them at the sadly now defunct Cold War Air Museum in Lancaster, Texas. That's one on their flight ramp. Got to peer into the cockpits (one for the gunner and one for the pilot) and even climb into the troop compartment!  When this picture was shot, the museum had two of these, both flyable. Neither was when I was there. This is, I believe, the one I got to see when I toured that museum's hangar. The 12.7 mm Gatling gun has been removed, but if you look closely, you can see the missile launch rails on the wing tip and the two rocket pods mounted on the hardpoints I mentioned. That door accesses the claustrophobia inducing troop compartment and is much higher than the photo shows. Also, the typical Russian soldier, around whom the bird was designed, is much shorter than the typical American soldier, so it's not all that big a deal for a Russian, but for someone almost 6″ tall, around 200 pounds and not a jock to begin with, it's a challenge, as that marvelous euphemism goes!

Export model HIND D, designated Mi-25, photographed on unknown date by unknown at Cold War Air Museum, Lancaster, TX

Now that you understand what was snatched up, know it didn't look like this at all, for a US Army advance team had already removed the rotor blades and the tail rotor blades, not only lightening the desert bleached Libyan helicopter but also eliminating significant drag and heading off unwanted, potentially fatal issues from rotor blades flapping about, spinning, and so on, to include inducing payload oscillation capable of jerking the carrying helicopter all over the sky–if not out of it altogether. As noted in the video, the second Chinook brought out the other parts and the advance team.

Slipping into hostile territory and stealing a vital weapon system or component is a time honored spook and military practice, whether it be the justly famous Bruneval Raid in 1942 (OPERATION BITING) or the hardly known at all but very high leverage, long duration CIA OPERATION HABRINK, which, among its many achievements,  obtained the guidance uplink frequencies for export model SA-2/GUIDELINE SAMs identical to what North Vietnam had, enabling effective jamming of the missile's ability to receive target location data. In the early days of the Vietnam War, the SA-2 was so potent it even got two kills with one hit a couple of times, but with effective jamming, air defense suppression, and smarter routing, it  became so ineffective the North Vietnamese were getting maybe a kill for a hundred SAMs launched.

Now, the above HIND helicopter heist would be a fabulous Cold War spook story all by itself, but as often happens to me when I'm interested in a topic, a real bombshell emerged out of nowhere. In fact, I don't know how I found the document to begin with. It would be fair to say it found me.

If you go back to the video and listen closely to the narration, Mark Felton, who made the documentary, alludes to special techniques used by the CIA, and oh was he ever right! A special technique was in a ramshackle building at Fort Meade, Maryland, home of the ultra high tech NSA. But rather than relying on super sensitive ELINT (Electronic Intelligence) and COMINT (Communication Imtelligence) satellites, the technique lay in the gray matter of people, in gray chairs in a room entirely gray so as not to distract. Those involved were both civilian and military, clandestine practitioners of that natural human ability (unknown and undeveloped in most people), to leave the body and project their awareness through Time and Space. Their technique? RV. Remote Viewing. What did it have to do with the HIND helicopter heist? Come along for the ride!

END Part 1

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