Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a CIA operative? I’ll walk you through the sexy gear today’s operatives are outfitted with and how it’s utilized in the field. This is part one of a series that will give you an exclusive look inside the spy agency’s departments of disguise, weaponry, vehicles, and communication. Buckle your seatbelt and enjoy the ride!
A major perk of being in the CIA: the vehicles you get to drive. Imagine cruising around Montenegro in a jet-black Beemer with an explosion-resistant fuel tank, pressure- and temperature-controlled tires, automatic fire extinguishers, and run-flat tires. Plus, the inside can be sealed or over-pressured using its own air supply in the event you get attacked with poison gas or tear gas.
In third-world countries, the BMW just won’t cut it, though. It’s impossible to blend in with the camels, donkey-drawn carriages, and Toyota Corollas that seem to comprise the overwhelming majority of transportation options. So imagine removing the shell of a rusted-out Toyota sedan and slapping it on a souped-up chassis with all the available options of your Beemer mentioned above. Add a selector switch to disengage brake lights for losing a tail at night, or a button to hydraulically blast out the windshield in case you roll your vehicle or hit a roadside bomb.
This is a mean son of a bitch. The HK416 was first adopted by my unit and Delta Force in 2004 because of its superior reliability. The piston operating system significantly reduced malfunctions while increasing the life of parts compared to the earlier M4 platforms. Issued to me with a Pelican impact-resistant case full of 30-round magazines, an EOTech optic, a sound/flash suppressor, and an AN/PEQ-2 (infrared beam used for illuminating targets visible only by night vision goggles), this weapon looks badass in anyone’s hand.
I despised the Marine Corps-issued Beretta 9mm pistol. Transitioning to the Glock 19 from that double-action paperweight was long overdue. Packaged with a threaded barrel, M-6 laser light, high-capacity magazines, and a sound/flash suppressor, the Glock 19 is reputable, strikes surgically, and is an effective pistol.
Duane Dieter’s Master of Defense CQD knife is supreme. This custom blade is manufactured with a strap cutter, glass-break prong, friction tape, and a custom seal containing a serial number on the blade. A small and large version of this knife are issued to unit operators.
I also rave about Spyderco and Gerber knives. Gerber allowed me to test several of their knives overseas. In turn, I agreed to provide critiques to the company. One of my favorites is the Instant. My advice is to carry whatever feels comfortable, but be sure the steel is of high-quality.
These bad boys are equipped with a sensor fusion overlay HUD system that enables real-time overlay of mission-critical information onto the night-vision image. This system interfaces with thermal weapon sights, allowing the operator to place the weapon around a corner and engage targets without exposing himself, and can send real-time data streaming from a laptop in the operator’s pack or vehicle system. The ticket price lands around $26,000 a pair.
The AN/PVS-21 is for aggressive special operations in all environments. Unlike other NVGs, these provide a smooth transition from dark to light. If someone flicks on the lights, the green image simply fades and you see as if you were looking through clear goggles. The transparent lenses also provide the most depth perception available of any head-mounted night-vision goggle.
If secure communication breaks down, you will be forced to communicate another way. Unsecured methods such as cell phones might be your only resort. Keeping operational security in mind, you can use this trick to pass along times, coordinates, or phone numbers:
S C U B A D I V E R
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Utilize the letters of this crypto to pass your message. To change a meeting time from 2:15 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., for example, I would communicate, “Echo, alpha, delta.” Be mindful to change up your crypto word from time to time, but ensure you replace it with a 10-letter word containing no similar letters.
For secure communication, we use the AN/PRC-148 Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio (MBITR)—the most widely fielded handheld, multi-band, tactical software-defined radio. It’s in use with NATO forces around the world.
The designation AN/PRC translates to Army/Navy Portable Radio. It’s used for two-way communications. The MBITR was developed by USSOCOM and Thales Communications in the 1990s and went into production in 2000 to address the need for a secure multi-band handheld radio. It replaced the hefty 10-pound PRC 117 radio, and weighs in at just under two pounds.
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