Project Elbow Rub

In early January of 1980 an MC-130E Combat Talon crew was formed at the 8th SOS under the command of Capt John Arnold. His crew flew initial missions from 9 to 24 January 1980 testing the feasibility of new technology that was designed to seriously degrade Tehran's ability to produce and transport electrical power through its grid network. The program was code-named Project Elbow Rub and continued throughout 1980 in anticipation of employment against Iran. In early April Arnold and his primary loadmaster, Rudy Blazek, deployed to the Pacific with the capability, and two 1st SOS Combat Talons (aircraft 62-1843 and 63-7785) were modified to deliver it. A third 1st SOS crew, commanded by John Pearson, was trained for the Elbow Rub mission. Lt Col Ray Turczynski was selected by PACOM as the mission commander should the mission be employed. When Turczynski deployed to Diego Garcia in mid-April, Arnold and Blazek moved the Elbow Rub equipment by way of C-141 to Diego Garcia to provide Turczynski the capability to use it should the situation dictate. Although neither the gunship strike nor the capability developed by Arnold and his crew was ever used against Iran, the OPG had both options ready in case they were needed.

Project Elbow Rub remained highly classified throughout the 1990s. The exact nature of the capability developed during 1980 remained on the cutting edge of military technology. John Arnold continued to be associated with Special Operations and became known for his intellect and keen ability to grasp difficult concepts and then apply them to unique military requirements.

Update: 2003
The Counterproliferation Division within the CIA's Directorate of Operations, the agency's clandestine espionage arm, came up with creative -- if unorthodox -- clandestine operations to try to penetrate Tehran's nuclear development program. In some cases, the CIA has worked jointly with Israeli intelligence on such operations, according to people familiar with the covert program. None are known to have worked.

One bizarre plan called for the sabotage of Iran's electrical grid in areas of the country near its secret nuclear installations. The CIA conducted tests of the electrical sabotage equipment at the U.S. government's Nevada nuclear test range. The plan called for an electromagnetic pulse device that could be smuggled into Iran and then hidden next to large power transmission lines carrying electricity into the country's nuclear facilities. The CIA would later remotely detonate the device, which would send a massive electrical pulse down the power lines, shorting out the computer systems inside the Iranian nuclear complex.

The CIA worked with Mossad, Israel's spy service, on the plan, and Mossad agents volunteered to smuggle the devices into Iran. The Israelis told the CIA that they had Iranian agents who would carry out the plan on their behalf.

But there were major technical problems that made the plan unworkable. The electromagnetic devices were so large that they had to be carried in a large truck, and then parked next to the power lines; the CIA realized that was impossible.

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