Know Your Enemy

An extract from Shiv Aroor's new book 'Operation Jinnah'

'The aircraft rumbled ahead, carefully guided from ten kilometres away by nothing but a pair of hands on a joystick and a jumble of keys on a panel.'

 |  Know Your Enemy  |  4-minute read |   27-05-2017
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Rana jogged up the stairs to his terrace, squinting into the sunlight. At one end were two navy engineers who had just set up a transmission antenna. It towered fourteen feet into the air on a wheeled platform at the far end of the terrace. Thick cables ran from the antenna’s main processor unit at the base to the AURA briefcase remote console. In front of the console, Nadeem sat cross-legged on the floor. He looked back before shooting to his feet when he saw the admiral.

“Be seated, man. I’m going to be in and out of here over the next couple of hours. Can’t have you standing up every time you see me.” Rana smiled but there was nothing he could do about the rictus of tension that had built up over his face.

“We’re ready for take-off, sir,” Nadeem said before sitting down in front of his console. Rana bent low to look at the screen. A static video frame from the nose of the AURA filled the main part of the screen. Two smaller video frames beamed in real-time images from one of the wingtips and the rear part of the aircraft’s belly. The cameras were all set in carefully moulded housing units that didn’t disrupt the stealthy lines of the airplane.

To the left of the video screen was the NAVMAP, the flight path indicator that mapped in real time where the aircraft was and where it was headed. Almost invisible to radar, the NAVMAP tracked the AURA through a top-secret transponder within the aircraft’s body. In other words, only Nadeem’s briefcase console had eyes to see the AURA clearly. To literally any other radar, it was practically non-existent.

jinnah_052717125456.jpgPhoto: Juggernaut Books

“Put me through to the squad,” Rana said, straightening up.

Nadeem pulled out the smartphone Akeela had given him and dialled, handing the phone to the chief.

“What’s the problem?” Akeela said, shouting against the growl of the twin engines. “Waiting for roll-out.”

“It’s me,” Rana said.

“Sir, we’re ready in all respects to get airborne,” Akeela said.

“Any thoughts on your exit plan?”

“No, sir,” Akeela yelled back. “We’ll work on it once we have Varuna.”

“I’m going to be right here. I’ll have a plan,” the navy chief said. He was aware he didn’t. It was all he had been thinking about since Vikramaditya had described the squad’s preposterous entry plan.

“That would be splendid, sir,” the commando screamed. “We’ll hold you to it.”

“Godspeed, soldier.”

Rana handed the phone back to Nadeem, who was looking at him cautiously.

“How are you going to get them out, sir?” he asked.

“Just get them there, son,” Rana said gently, no irritation in his voice.

“You’re going to have to bring them back. Or this isn’t a mission,” Nadeem replied. All the worry that had reduced the aeronautical engineer into a nervous wreck an hour earlier had evaporated. The cocky self-assurance he had acquired from spending years researching things that most people didn’t understand was back. “You’re going to have to think of something really soon,” he said. “They’re going to be there in just over forty minutes.”

“How high are they going to be for the drop?” the admiral asked.

“About 50,000 feet.”

“Are you joking?”

“Anything lower, and there’s a good chance of detection from the ground, sir.”

“They’re not advanced paratroopers! That’s way too high!”

“I don’t know, sir.” Nadeem sighed. “I got the feeling they know what they’re doing...”

A shadow passed over Rana’s face. Nadeem turned back to face the console. He flipped a small switch, releasing the AURA’s brakes, and carefully guided the drone out of the hangar at the Palam Air Force base. On the screen, the video lurched forward, brightening as the AURA emerged from its darkened confines and into daylight again. The aircraft rumbled ahead, carefully guided from ten kilometres away by nothing but a pair of hands on a joystick and a jumble of keys on a panel. Rana watched as the aircraft climbed from the apron back on to the tarmac, carefully aligning with the runway. There it stopped. Nadeem craned his neck as he turned around to look at the admiral one more time.

“If you don’t mind my asking, sir. How did you get them to agree to do this?”

“I didn’t.”

[Excerpted with permissions of Juggernaut Books from Operation Jinnah by Shiv Aroor, available in bookstore and on www.juggernaut.in]

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Writer

Shiv Aroor Shiv Aroor @shivaroor

Editor (Output) at India Today TV. Interests: Military, marine biology, boxing, metal, videogames, horror, hypocrisy.

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