Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size
Login

Military Photos



Furtive Bear, Peru

(460 total words in this text)
(2562 Reads)  Printer-friendly page
Furtive Bear

Operation FURTIVE BEAR included activities to secretly photograph cocaine labs and airstrips in Peru's Upper Huallaga Valley. The FURTIVE BEAR nomenclature was also applied to the 430th Reconnaissance Technical Group which deployed in Operation JUST CAUSE. On 24 April 1992, an unarmed C-130H Hercules from the 310th Airlift Squadron was deployed on a FURTIVE BEAR mission. Two Peruvian Air Force SU-22 (FITTER) aircraft reacted to the C-130H some 70 miles off the coast of Peru, in international airspace. The clearly marked transport was was raked with cannon fire 60 miles off the Pacific coast by the two Peruvian SU-22 fighters, and forced to land in Peru.

Six of the 14-man crew aboard the C-130H became casualties. Master Sgt. Joseph C. Beard, Jr., immediately went to an observation window in the right paratroop door and called out fighter positions to the pilot. This was not part of his job but he did it anyway. When the lead fighter opened fire on the plane he called it out to the pilot and pushed another crewmember away from the window. The 30mm cannon fire struck the window Beard was stationed in and he was sucked out of the plane during the rapid decompression at 18,500 feet. An exhaustive search and rescue never recovered his body. Staff Sgt. Ronald Hetzel had his chest blown open and his jugular vein severed. Four other airmen also were wounded. Beard received a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross at his memorial service. The crew received the Mackay trophy for the Air Force's most meritorious flight of 1992. Purple Hearts, however, were not announced for the wounded crew until January 1996.

The Peruvian pilots later were awarded commendations from their government for their actions. Peru claimed that the American aircraft had refused to respond to Peruvian Air Force radio communications before being attacked. The United States Congress held up $100 million in assistance in 1994 until Peru settled damage claims with Beard's family.

Aerial detection and monitoring form the mainstay of interdiction in South America. Early warning, tracking, imagery, signals intelligence and ground-based radar all contribute to the "end game," or actual capture of a place smuggling narcotics. An array of aircraft was dedicated to interdiction. These included E-3 Sentry AWACs, C-130 Hercules and P-3 Orions.

Until the base closed, the 24th Wing, based at Howard Air Base near Panama City, handled daily flights. Some 80 percent of them are counter-drug related. Air National Guard and Reserve units provide 40 percent of the overall crews, dominating airlift. To coordinate detection and monitoring of narco-aircraft, the Wing operated the Joint Air Operations Center at Howard. Opened in August 1992, this nerve cell was the direct result of the tragic shoot-down of a U.S. plane by Peruvian pilots the previous April.
Military History
Forum Posts

Military Polls

Do you think the U.S. military should do more to prevent lawlessness and looting in Iraq?

[ Results | Polls ]

Votes: 116

This Day in History
1192: English King Richard I the Lion Hearted was captured in Austria on his return from the Third Crusade.

1745: A Scottish Jacobite army commanded by Lord George Murray routs the Royalist army of General Sir John Cope at Prestonpans.

1863: Union troops defeated at Chickamauga seek refuge in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is then besieged by Confederate troops.

1929: Fighting between China and the Soviet Union breaks out along the Manchurian border.

1936: The German army holds its largest maneuvers since 1914.

1941: The German Army cuts off the Crimean Peninsula from the rest of the Soviet Union.

1942: The U.S. B-29 Superfortress makes its debut flight in Seattle, Washington. It was the largest bomber used in the war by any nation.


1942: British forces attack the Japanese in Burma.

1944: U.S. troops of the 7th Army, invading Southern France, cross the Meuse River.

1951: Operation SUMMIT, the first helicopter landing of a combat unit in history, took place. It included the airlifting of a reinforced company of Marines and 17,772 pounds of cargo into the Punchbowl area.