Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Kirk von Ackermann's Nissan Patrol SUV

The next few posts here at the Missing Man will take a look at vehicles:

1. Kirk von Ackermann's Nissan Patrol SUV
2. Ryan Manelick's Hyundai Galloper
3. The 'nice white Land Cruiser' driven by Manelick's assailants













Photo of a "Nissan Patrol in Iraq that was being used by security contractors near the Syrian Border" in December 2005. More images, including interior, can be found at the source of this photo.

Kirk von Ackermann made arrangements to buy a used white Nissan Patrol SUV in Iraq.

Some time after leaving a meeting at FOB Pacesetter, von Ackermann called an Iraqi employee, told the employee he had trouble with his tire and to come get him in the Jabal Hamrin mountains between Tikrit and Kirkuk. His Nissan Patrol SUV was discovered abandonned 45 minutes later, roughly 140 miles from FOB Pacesetter.

About the Nissan Patrol SUV









Photo of a 2003 Nissan Patrol SUV in Australia.

Even though they are very popular world wide, they are not sold in the US and consequently have a very limited presence in the States. The UN has used the Nissan Patrol for over 40 years. The Patrol was also used by UNSCOM weapons inspectors in Iraq for years -- and everyone in Baghdad knew their Patrols by site. Of course, 'UN' in huge black letters on the sides made them hard to miss.

Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein
By Scott Ritter, former UNSCOM weapons inspector, page 1
Baghdad, 8 March 1998

The long convoy of white Nissan Patrol vehicles snaked its way along the Baghdad thoroughfare towards the Iraqi ministry of Defense. In side the vehicles were sitting dozens of grim stony faced men. They were experts from the United Nations Special Commission or UNSCOM: weapons inspectors mandated by the the Security Council to disarm Iraq. As chief inspector of this particular mission, I sat in the lead vehicle. We were in no hurry, being more concerned with keeping the convoy together than with speed. Our target was not going anywhere, so I was content to crawl along in the slow lane, letting the bustling traffic of a Baghdad rush hour stream on by. By this time, UN inspectors had been in Iraq for almost seven years, and our white vehicles, emblazoned with large black 'UN' letter, were an all-too-familiar sight to the citizens of Baghdad, who signaled to us in a variety of ways as they drove past. Most simply honked their horns and waved, but there were more than a few who shook their fists and cursed us in God's name for the economic ruin brought on their country. Iraq was reeling after more than a decade of UN-sponsored sanctions.
Suspicions that von Ackermann worked for the CIA -- thus making him a target -- based solely on his choice of car can not be ignored given the history of the Nissan Patrol SUV in Iraq and events with CIA and UNSCOM. Although, it seems a bit of a stretch.

Annan's Office Leaked Allegations of US Spies in UNSCOM
By David Ensor & AP, CNN, January 7, 1999
The sources said the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] did help UNSCOM, at its request, to eavesdrop electronically on officers of special Republican Guard units assigned by Hussein to both conceal his illegal weapons programs and provide for the Iraqi leader's personal security. [...] More than a year of tension between Washington and Baghdad began in the fall of 1997 when Iraq demanded an end to U.S. participation in the weapons inspections, charging that they were espionage operations.
In addition to the Nissan Patrol, the Mitsubishi Pajero, Land Rover and Toyota Land Cruiser were and still are equally popular. During Saddam Hussein's rule, all such vehicles tended to be the property of well-connected party members, security forces, and/or non-governmental organizations such as agencies of the UN. In general terms, all such vehicles were and still are out of reach to the ordinary citizen of Iraq.

Return of exile who hopes to lead nation
By David Blair, UK Telegraph, Baghdad April 17, 2003
With all the assurance of an American presidential candidate, Mr Chalabi sailed into Baghdad in a motorcade of five white Nissan Patrol cars.
What about other US companies operating in Iraq? Former Halliburton subsidiary, KBR, generally used GMC vehicles like Yukons and Suburbans as well as the occasional Hummer, though much less often.

Problems with the Jack

Suspicion surrounds missing Bay Area man
By Colin Freeman, San Francisco Chronicle, February 13, 2005
In the midafternoon of Oct. 9, 2003, Kirk von Ackermann, an American contract worker from the Bay Area, used a satellite phone to call a colleague from a lonely desert road between Tikrit and Kirkuk in northern Iraq. He told his colleague he had a flat tire and needed a jack.
A spare tyre with jack comes as standard equipment on a Nissan Patrol. Was the jack missing or did it just not work? Which tire had a problem, front or rear?

This is a photo of a Hi-Lift Jack from ARB, an Australian manufacturer and distributor of 4x4 accessories. For storage, the Hi-Lift Jack typically mounts on the exterior rear or roof of the vehicle with the spare tire.

This type of jack, the Hi-Lift Jack, is not standard equipment for the Nissan Patrol but is generally recommended for off-road vehicles. However, there's some on-line discussion about tipping problems using Hi-Lift Jacks for rear tires on Nissan Patrols. Discussion about those problems, and the need for a custom bracket in order to use a Hi-Lift Jack, can be found at Patrol 4x4. Includes photos of a custom lift bracket made for a Hi-Lift Jack.

Tires

Run-flat tires are extremely popular for off-road vehicles because of the likelihood of punctures in remote locations. There's no indication von Ackermann's Nissan Patrol had run-flat tires but I thought they were worth noting given the environment he was working in. I also mention them because I spent 5 months working in a foreign country with some rough roads. My boss at the time had 3 flat tires in one day. I think the record was 5 by someone working in another department.

Run-Flat Tires are standard issue on armored vehicles as a safety feature. If a tire is shot out, the car can still get away safely. All of the US military vehicles in Iraq? They come equipped with run-flat tires. Hummers, Strykers, etc, all have run-flats. The US military has been using some version of run-flats for decades.

There are three types of run-flats.
A) An inner rigid ring -- like a donut -- basically hugs the rim. If the tire goes flat, the car can still drive about 100 miles at 50mph without damaging the rim as it rides on the ring. Enough to get you to a garage.

B) The tire has a rigid wall on either side that again holds up the vehicle from riding on the rim if the tire loses pressure. Type B relies on an electronic pressure gauge that alerts the driver to losing pressure otherwise they might not notice the tire has lost air.

C) Used in racing cars. The tires are filled with a foam-like substance. Type C don't apply, but if you google you'll come across information on them.
Some Type B tires require a specialized jack to change the tire, which means taking the vehicle to a mechanic. But Type B also alerts the driver to service the vehicle.

Additional Reading:

Iraqi Police to receive 2,600 vehicles this year through Foreign Military Sales
By Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq, Public Affairs Office, Phoenix Base, February 18, 2008 (includes photos)

Nissan Patrol used by the International Committee of the Red Crescent
(includes photos)

Packing List
from photographer Erwin Voogt for a two-year expedition from the Netherlands to Tibet. He and his party traveled in a Toyota Land Cruiser; while the example is extreme, the photos and the stories are good. Includes a photo of fixing a flat tire in Pakistan.

Prior related posts:

Safa Shukir & the Phone Call December 9, 2007
Kirk's Car December 4, 2007