Operation Nifty Package 1989 – Delta Force kit

A few posts back I talked about the Operation Just Cause Ranger kit and now it is time to share something about the Delta Force side of things from that era. The title of the post is Operation Nifty Package, which was an operation inside an operation. Sounds good? Good. Can get a bit confusing, since there was also another operation, Operation Acid Gambit, which happened during Operation Just Cause as well. I hope you can follow me here with all these operations. I will try and keep it as simple as possible.

As always, this kit is always a work in progress. I have been planning this for a few years, but not until last summer did I really get into shaping this kit together. There are some things that the more knowledgeable will notice are not 100% correct. These things will be fixed over time but the current aim is to make it pass the squint test and field the kit. No point in getting all the stuff and not doing something with it, right?

For this post, I will skip the overall history of the era, since I already went through it on the previous post I mentioned. Check there if you would like to read some more background on the main operation. Instead, let’s take a look at Delta Force and their missions specifically.

In addition to Operation Nifty Package, another known Delta operation during the same time as Operation Just Cause was Operation Acid Gambit, where Delta Force was tasked with freeing Kurt Muse from the Modelo Prison. He was arrested in early 1989 for setting up anti-Noriega radio broadcast in Panama, with some help from the CIA. Freeing him before the beginning of Operation Just Cause was mandatory, as the guards had orders to shoot Muse if the United States began any military operations against Panama. Colonel James A. Ruffer, who had been visiting Muse and relaying information to Delta Force, made one last visit on December 19th, 1989, one day before the operation. He stated in the presence of guards and even reporters, that if Muse was harmed in any way, no one in the prison would make it out alive.

Since Delta Force had been receiving information from Col. Ruffer for quite a while and in combination with other intelligence reports, they had built a 1:1 scale version of the prison where Muse was held. They rehearsed hundreds of times, to familiarize themselves with distances, door locations and everything possible to ensure that they could get Muse out. The raid was launched on December 20th, and Muse was safely extracted. Two helicopters did go down and 4 operators were wounded during the operation.

Other than the rescue of Kurt Muse, Delta Force would participate in the capture of Manuel Noriega in cooperation with the Navy SEALs, in Operation Nifty Package. The Navy SEALs were tasked with destroying Noriega’s private jet in the Punta Paitilla Airport, which was located on the coast of Panama City. Due to apparent miscommunication, sudden change of orders and other happenings, the mission escalated into a large firefight. The Battle of Punta Airport is seen as one of the most controversial operations of Operation Just Cause due to this. Another SEAL operation at the same time was to disable Manuel Noriega’s boat, the Presidente Porras. SEALs dived into the area using the Draeger rebreathers, which do not produce any exhalation bubbles. They were able to plant the explosives under the ship, and though they were discovered by PDF soldiers and had to hide nearby, this enabled them to confirm the destruction of the boat.

Back to Delta, now that we have covered some background. Some of the most well known images of Delta Force are outside the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See (the de facto embassy for the Vatican in Panama), where Manuel Noriega had sought safe-haven after the initial US invasion. The United States could not invade a piece of land belonging to the Vatican, so other measures had to be taken. Manuel Noriega was eventually “defeated by rock ‘n’ roll”, which was later seen as a controversial course of action. According to history, the rock music was not the only reason why Noriega was eventually captured, but the psychological nature of the out-of-the-box way of persuasion is an interesting way of achieving it, only if partly.

Original image credit to owner.

You will see Delta wearing 3rd pattern jungle fatigues and woodland camo during Operation Just Cause, and their kit varies quite a bit depending on what their mission was. Just by looking at the images from Operation Nifty Package and Acid Gambit, there are several differences in their kit due to the different nature of their mission. If you are doing a specific impression on one mission or operation, you need to take care in choosing the right kit. Many bits are mission specific.

Welcome to the Jungle

Original image credit to owner.

I will go over the woodland oriented kit in this post, as I do not have a kit for Operation Acid Gambit. That operation deserves a post of its own later down the road. For now, let’s take a look at the Operation Nifty Package kit.

Though images of Operation Acid Gambit show Delta rocking some old school 3rd pattern jungle fatigues, they wore M81 woodland BDUs during Operation Nifty Package and Acid Gambit as well, as the image below suggests. My personal kit is towards Operation Nifty Package, as I do not feel that I have the necessary kit to make an Operation Acid Gambit loadout. That is something for another day!

Original image credit to owner.

My kit centers around the use of an LBV-88 vest, which has some slight modifications done to it. Two of the ammo pouches on the panels have been raised higher (the ones closer to the armpits). The reason behind this is to make it more like the original model of the LBV that was tested during this era by Delta. I unfortunately, again, do not have the original version in my collection, so I need to make due with the current one I have.

My LBV setup for Operation Nifty Package.

In addition to raising the ammo pouches higher, I have done some other modifications to the LBV as well. I have removed the two grenade pockets from the lower part of the two panels and added one of them to my right hand side. It is still usable, as you can see from the images.

The belt setup that I run is pretty straightforward. There is one custom made item by yours truly, the black radio pouch. There are better reproductions out there (Check Squadron – Sew Shop at Facebook) but this was done to better accommodate my Baofeng radio with a large capacity battery. It was done according to reference images, but is not as up to spec as the Squadron version is, which was done with comparison to a real one. Will need to order one at some point, but for now, it is better than nothing. In addition to the Just Cause Delta kit, the radio pouch also goes well with the Operation Eagle Claw setups, since the pouch was originally made in some quantity for that particular operation. If you do not want to get one of these pouches, using an ALICE magazine pouch is perfectly acceptable as well.

Other pouches that I have on my belt is one ALICE magazine pouch, two canteen pouches of which one of them has a compass pouch sewn onto it, a buttpak at the back and one compass/first aid pouch on the front. I also run a pistol with this setup using the drop leg holster, which is a copy of the AWS one by Squadron. Excellent holster! Extra pistol magazines are carried with the black AWS pistol magazine pouch.

The AWS drop-leg holster by Squadron – Sew Shop.

The ALICE magazine pouch is used for either magazines or small items, depending on what I need. For example, it is a good pouch for some Enola Gaye smoke grenades. The buttpack carries what it is needed: medical items, clothing, grenades, food, ammo and what-not. I used to have an IFAK here, but I removed it and added the buttpack, as per some reference images I have seen. The canteen pouches, well, have canteens, and the one sewn on compass pouch carries some trioxane tablets or other forms of fire starting. The one single compass/first aid pouch on the front carries some green bandages.

Notice the buttpack on the operator, who is second from the left.

An optional piece is the black TG Faust body armor. There are a few images of Delta wearing that particular piece of kit during the operation. Most are from Acid Gambit, where Delta operators were wearing OD jungle fatigues, but there is reference of them also using the vest with woodland BDUs. Mine is, again, from Squadron. I have modded mine with RS soft inserts, still need some plates. Why? Because I can and those make it more comfortable and add weight, which mean that it sits better.

The woodland BDU I have has some small modifications. The trousers are the regular type, with a custom made belt. As far as I understand, these kinds of belts were rather common within Delta Force. The trouser belt always has my pistol holster attached. The BDU jacket has seen its pockets removed and added back again, to different locations. The chest pockets have been moved over to the arms and some black velcro has been added to them. The lower pockets have in turn been moved up to the chest, where the smaller chest pockets used to be. I have been contemplating about adding some velcro on the flaps of all the pockets to help with opening and closing them as well.

Modded M81 woodland jacket, trousers with custom belt and some salty jungle boots.

As for headgear, I have the normal woodland BDU patrol cap and the Protec helmet. My helmet is not exactly correct, as it is not the real old gen version of the helmet that was used back then. The keen eye can notice some small differences in the shape of the helmet, the rivets where the chin strap is attached and also the fastex clip on the chinstrap. They have not bothered me and I have attempted to hide these details to the best of my ability. The more modern Protec also uses different kind of padding or foam on the inside of the helmet. So for mine I have made my own with the same style that the oldgen helmets had. I think it turned out quite good. I love the look of the helmet overall.

My current Protec. One of the items I really need to change to a period correct one.

Weaponry department is my trusty M653 carbine. I made a post about it a while back when I was featuring my different carbines and there’s also a video about it available on my Youtube channel at Hotel Whiskey. The article and video are more geared towards the Ranger side of things, but check them out!

But back to the topic at hand. The M653 carbine development began in the early 1970s, of all the models (651, 652, 653 and 654), the M653 was the one US Army purchased in larger quantities. It had a retractable buttstock (2-positions) and a forward assist, while the other models varied in their configuration. The 2-position stock would more than often be modified by Delta Force troopers to add an extra position where they wanted the stock to lock.

Delta can be seen using this carbine as early as 1983, during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. It was around for a long time, and it was to some extent replaced by the M723 carbine, but many M653 models remained and only parts of those carbines were updated. That is why we can see so many variations of Delta carbines in images: M4 profile barrels, pencil barrels, shell deflectors and no shell deflectors… The one common and unmistakable thing with all the carbines seems to be the A1 style rear sights.

For my sidearm of choice, I use my WE M1911 (or the MEU, which it used to be). I am not 100% sure about the different modifications that my 1911 has, and have been thinking of getting a plain M1911 and adding some small modifications to it. The WE MEU was originally purchased for my Gothic Serpent Delta loadout, anyway.

This post turned out quite long, but there were many things to point out and the fact that I was partly jumping between three operations here. Operation Just Cause is probably the most known one, but both the Nifty Package and Acid Gambit were part of the operation. They were separate, with different sub-goals, but they happened in cooperation with the main operation. Usually if people refer to Delta in Operation Just Cause, they are actually talking about either Nifty Package or Acid Gambit.

My kit is evolving all the time and new stuff is being added to it. Best place to see how it develops is to check out my social media at Facebook and Instagram for more behind the scenes content and fresh images. As mentioned, I also have an Youtube account, but sadly I have not been that active there. Will need to change that! I would like to make some videos about the recent kits that I have been featuring here.

As always, I will end this post with some images with the kit being worn. I did some variations, with and without the body armor, with and without helmet and so on. Using my Oakley Razor blades here, but if you have some old school Gargoyle glasses, those are more than alright as well. Would love to get a pair, but they seem to be even more scarce than Oakley glasses. And I have 2 Oakley glasses! Stay frosty sports fans!


6 responses to “Operation Nifty Package 1989 – Delta Force kit”

  1. Jim Avatar

    The picture of the guys in OG-107’s was taken about an hour before they loaded up for the prison. Some elements with other missions did wear flight suits as mission requirements dictated, but in the end (as seen in the pictures outside the Papal Nunciature) they all ended up in BDU’s to help prevent fratricide with conventional forces.

    1. hotelwhiskey Avatar

      Interesting info! Thank you for the comment! Always nice to learn more about this.

  2. Austin Avatar

    Very great loadout and resources included in your post! Only thing is that you mention during Acid Gambit Delta wore OG Jungle Fatigues during the operation. As I understood it, they wore their black kit similar to what you have in this load out but they wore Nomex Flight Suits instead. In the picture you posted and other ones online, you can tell by the single pocket on the left sleeve and lack of belt for pants. Just thought I’d let you know before you decided to tackle that kit some day.

    1. Hawkins Avatar

      Thank you for the comment! Very good info! Would it be possible that they wore a combination of both? Either way, excellent info, thank you! Will make a note about that if I ever get around doing an Acid Gambit inspired kit.

  3. kC Avatar

    Awesome, just awesome.

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