This here is a brand new element, it also weaves in some more background on the overall INTENSE arrangement. Its still really got to be blended some more in the overall scheme of things, but you should be able to follow. Its possibly a little different too, from the other scenes so far.
The P3D Orion lurched upwards again, as the pilot brought the fought the controls, bring the aircraft back up, having just dropped another 50 feet in the foul low level turbulence. The P3D Orion of RAAF Squadron number 2, maritime strike an anti-submarine warfare was making heavy going in the aftermath of the typhoon, that had recently wrought devastation across the northern Indonesian archipelago.
The pilot and co pilot had been man handling the aircraft for the last two and half hours, normally at transit altitude this would not have been such an issue, however flying anti submarine patrol at 200 feet in the narrow confines between Java and Lombok, in the Lombok strait, guaranteed for an ugly ride.
Goss Hawk 1, the call sign for the heavily modified P3D was on a mission, intelligence had passed down instructions whilst in transit to their patrol area further north in the Celebes sea, that a possible PLAN SSK was operating in the straights, their job was to locate the Chinese sub and report back to RAN TAC HQ in Darwin via sat link, as soon as the target had been located. Problem was, at this altitude in such foul weather, the only thing they had really been able to locate was the ready supply of barf bags on board. The weather was evil, the flight crew’s mood, a darkening shade of evil yet again.
Sitting at his ELINT warfare console, the tactical communications officer was silently scanning the airwaves, looking for stray transmissions, well in reality the computer was doing the “ Flipping” as he called it, when his head suddenly shot up,
“ Sir, I have an electronic burst transmission, heading 265, medium strength, recommend we come to new heading three Zero Eight, so we can triangulate on any further bursts”.
Up in the cock pit, both pilots shared a quick look with each other, Caption David Francis Jeffery, scanned his instruments for any sign of issues and checked their fuel state, before activating his mike.
“Copy that TACCO, new heading Three Zero Eight, turning now”; Immediately David started banking the P3D right, throttling up whilst at it. The big Merlin turbo fans recently installed on the P3D models, increased their shriek ever so slightly as Goss Hawk 1 came around onto her new heading and settled itself into wings level flight, a mere 200 feet over the deep waters of the Lombok passage.
The P3 ‘D’ model was the RAAF’s answer to the problem laden P8 maritime strike and patrol aircraft that the USN and USAF were still trying to get fully operational. The RAAF, had decided to opt out of the P8 purchase, at the time the current model P3C’s were the mot sophisticated ASW airborne platforms in the world, given the unique requirements the RAAF had for distance and surveillance. Correctly, hind sight had determined, the requirements specified in the USN’s brief for the P8 had been overly optimistic, sensing another F111 debacle, Australia pursued their own version. This current D Model was unlike anything the RAAF had been operating. Jet powered, where as the 3C had been propeller driven, the ‘D’ also boasted not only an advanced electronic warfare suite, but in flight refueling, and carried a small fuel cell of its own, a mini tanker, the drogues operating from wing tip pods. Extensive modifications had been made structurally to the airframe, and utilization of composite materials most of which were for either weight reduction or radar absorption, gave the aircraft a very healthy power to weight ratio. The 3D Australian Orion, albeit heavily modified was the stealthiest ASW aircraft operating anywhere in the world. Goss Hawk one had just settled onto its new heading, both the pilot and co pilot started to relax somewhat when their head sets crackled to life again….it was the TAO Officer. “Comms I have another burst transmission, bearing… zero for six, working up triangulation now, High confidence it’s the same source as previous”.
The air within the cabin was almost electric, normally it was business like anyway and although the crew was relatively young, the mission parameters for this hop were sufficiently different and dangerous to heighten their senses. The Major who had come on board at Darwin now strode down the aisle towards the TACCO, the Tactical Air combat control officer who at this point was over seeing the planes operation, looked up as the Major came to a halt. Major Peter Hill, a former Western Australian with thinning hair and pale complexion halted at the TACCO, rocking gently from side to side as the P3 oscillated in the low level turbulence, he fixed his stare on the young Tacco, “ Well Tacco, what have we got”.
Straightening up a little, the Tacco didn’t immediately respond to the Major, not out of insubordination mind you, simply the young captain was waiting for ‘the piece of shit computer’ as he commonly referred to it as, to spit out the fucking triangulated co-coordinates.
His wait wasn’t long in coming; suddenly the terminal beeped, up flashed the grid co ordinates of the mystery burst transmissions, which had now repeated twice. “ sir, we have’em, Range 43K meters, its definitely a surface vessel or submarine Sir, the bursts are encrypted however, I can’t give you any details other than that sir”.
Standing there for several seconds Peter simply stared towards the cockpit, to the young Captain it appeared as if his was contemplating something, he was just about to enquire if there was any further information which the major required when he suddenly looked across at him.
“Right, lest go get him shall we, I want to stay under the visual horizon as long as possible, it might just be a surface vessel, any transmissions from that bearing other than the burst”. It was a rhetorical question, Peter already new the answer even before he asked, had their been surface search radar operating within 2000 miles the crew would already have detected it and called the unknown out. But there hadn’t been anything like that in the last 4 hours of their torturous roller coaster ride from Darwin aside from a weak air search radar off to their south, which was identified.
Nobody in their right mind flew in these conditions anyway, both the Pilot and co pilot had voiced their concerns before take off, then several more times during the flight, none more so than when their sudden down draft descent had seen Goss Hawk one flatten out at 100 feet over the very angry arafura sea just 1 hour out from Darwin. With the 25 foot waves, and operating on the typhoons outer edges it had made for a “very fucking close call”, at least ‘they’ had been the co pilots words over the intercom system.
Young Captain Michael Korrattsis, instinctively pulled in his harness a little tighter, Peter thought this was a little theatrical, but figured the captain hadn’t said anything so all should be good. Looking up having adjusted himself the captain called out to Major Hill as he was wandering forward to the cock pit. “ Major, nearest I figure we have about ten minutes at the current altitude before we will need to descend to 100 feet Sir, no other emissions detected from that area or on the scope anywhere. You might need to speak with the Aircraft commander Sir”.
Peter noted there were no sarcasms in the young Captions voice, flat, purely devoid of emotion, the young man was simply letting him know, the descent in these conditions was dangerous and it might be prudent to peak with the aircrafts pilot before going any further. Turning slightly the Major Hill replied,” Thank you Captain, I’m heading that way now, I would suggest we ensure that all passive and active counter measures are operational, lets get a burst transmission of to RANHQ too shall we…soonest, give them all the details and data that we have, and that I fully intend to prosecute the target , should it fall within the briefed parameters , if you would please”.
Turning, Peter continued he way forward towards the cockpit, “ Affirmative Major, transmission will go out in approximately 5 minutes we are having trouble getting a stable link to NavSat in this soup Sir’. Without bothering to look back Peter replied, “Very well then captain,, keep at it”, stopping briefly Peter grabbed the handle to the cock pit door , before twisting the knob he wrapped twice softly on it with his right hand, “ Major Hill entering gentlemen”.
From deep inside the cockpit a voice boomed out “yeah enter if ya game”. It was the Pilot, Captain Francis-Jeffery. Without bothering to look around the co pilot, Lieutenant Mark Ballinger piped up in between his grunts and switch flipping. “ So Major, I hear we have a target, its a little further out than what the briefing parameters suggested it might be, what’s ya gut feel”.
Both the pilot and co pilot of Goss hawk 1 were fully briefed on the missions parameters, in fact, the overall operational concept had been modified on their suggestion, it was just the arrival of the typhoons storm front, much faster than what had been expected that pissed them off so badly …and so fast the Major thought. The Major stood there quietly for what seemed like an eternity to both pilots, raising his head slightly Major Hill sniffed in some air, before fixing his gaze on the Pilot.
“ Well captain, given the critical nature of this mission and the broad parameters in which we are operating under, I don’t see any other choice, other than continuing on, I do think however we should have all systems in standby, just in case it hits the fan, other than that, you’re the aircrafts commander, how low we operate is up to you, but if its the Chinese PLAN Sub, like Intel suggests, we sink the fucker as soon as we have positively identified the bastards. Just make sure he doesn’t get off any radio transmissions okay”
Captain Francis, turned back to face the front of the aircraft, it seemed as if he weighed up Peters comments, then just a slight nod as if satisfied with his decision followed, “Fair enough Sir, we will descend to 100 feet when we are 20 miles from the computers estimated datum point, we’ll drop two torp’s in a spaced bracket, one active and one passive, plus we will light off the surface search radar as well in case he does an emergency surface. If he does, I’ll pop him with a Harpoon before the fucker can blink”.
Just then Goss Hawk 1 took another vertical plummet, both pilots immediately grabbed their control yokes and the co pilot shoved the throttles forward to the stops. Peter immediately heard the two big Merlin Turbo Fans shriek as the aircraft tried to accelerate. Now stooped somewhat and his knees bent from the force of the descent, Major Hill continued watching the laser altimeter used for TFR operations, as it continued to wind down. Looking across he could see that both Pilots were applying more pressure on their controls, their knuckles visibly white from exertion, then…… finally the altimeter stopped its descent……..the read out showed 70 feet, between themselves and the troughs of the ocean. “Jesus Peter thought”, 70 feet separated them from hell, what was almost a guaranteed messy death, in the ‘middle of fucking nowhere’. He thought
Looking back over his shoulder at the Major the captain spoke, sweat pouring off hiss face, you could clearly see the damp spots, even in the aircrafts air-conditioned interiors, spreading out under his armpits. “You’d best go take a seat and strap in back there Major, its going to be a lively ride once we descend to 100, we’re gunna be at almost max power the whole way, it’ll be close to the operational launch parameters off the torp’s, but I can’t help that, I’d rather miss the bastard than kill us all, if you get my drift”.
Peter stood up, and started walking towards the door,” fair enough captain, it’s your bird, do your best”. With that Peter walked through the cockpit door and gently closed it behind him, he was sure that his face was still pale from the near miss, as he proceeded back to his station, all the crew continued at their jobs, more than likely they had overheard his conversation, if they hadn’t, the pilot was in all probability going to let them know shortly. It was standard operational practice anyway.
Some 40 miles away from the rapidly approaching Goss Hawk 1, lurked 5000 tonnes of black, stealthy Peoples Liberation Army Navy attack submarine. Currently the Commander of the boat Captain Peng Le Fung had the Angry Dawn running silently 25 feet beneath the surface of the entrance to the Lombok strait, they were due again shortly to send through another burst transmission as soon as the package was ready. The captain and all the crew hoped so, well he figured they did, fatally, no Submarine commander or personnel within one, liked being near the surface although the operational depths to which they could dive far exceeded that beneath the keel of the PLAN’s Leopard Class SSK. It was almost a naked feeling the Captain thought, plus, with sea state 7 conditions topside, the boat was rocking from side to side, it wouldn’t be until they were back down, passed 200 feet that the surface effect would subside and clean calmer water would be entered.
Trailing out of a special recess in the Angry Dawns conning tower was a thin cable some 1500 feet long, at the end of which was a floating buoy, actually a satellite transceiver, which was of course water proofed. Along with the buoys receiving and transmission sending circuitry, the dark green skin was impregnated with electronic receptors, listening, almost sucking up the air for any tell tail signs of aircraft or ships electronic transmissions.
The PLAN had come a long way over the last decade, the current generation of SSK’s were almost comparable to the units only recently retired by the Australian Navy, but still were, almost a generation behind the new MORAY class of SSK boats the RAN now operated. Major Hill, rocked slightly as he finished making his way back to his station, Goss Hawk 1, like all RAAF aircraft the world over carried several spare seats and two modular combat workstations. It was here, with the work stations that they differed markedly from other maritime patrol and strike units. The RAAF had tried hard to keep production costs down during the fleets refit. During the creation or design phase, a bright young electrical engineer named Ray Sheridan had come up with the idea of doing like was done on the current generation of frigates, “Lets make the stations modular and tailor able for mission packages”.
It hadn’t exactly worked out that way, space and time constraints simply meant adapting the fit out on a P3D for each mission was not possible. But they did make it possible for what was later termed ‘Theatre package equipment’. In this case, as the operating environment was close Anti submarine warfare and the PRC boats were equipped with SAMs mounted in their sails and possibly intelligence thought, Underwater launched SAM’s as well, the current generation warfare suit of ASM’s and AAM station had been fitted.
The Major, was the RAAF / ARA expert on this and had been selected as the mission commander for both this reason and his previous intelligence postings in Malaysia.
Unbeknown top either Goss Hawk 1’s crew or the PLAN SSK, the stealthy buoy from the Angry Dawn, trailing along behind the SSK, had become fouled. Two distinctly large clumps of sea weed had become entangled on the cable. Ordinarily this would not have been an issue, sea weed or kelp tended to foul the cable and as the communication & Elint buoy crept along the surface it would unwrap it self or simply be cut through.
What’s the captain was not aware of though, was the comm.’s buoy was doing everything but, sneaking along the surface. The violent storm had created 25 feet swells and in his efforts to keep the boat stable the sea leopard was both deeper than normal at 200 feet and faster, currently traveling at 12 knots. What this ensured was that the comm.’s buoy, with the added buoyancy of the weed & drag was slamming into each wave face, getting dragged through the swell centre and popping up and out the opposite side. All this, in reality, generated a series of very visible impacts, which the communications crew traveling 200 feet under the wave, simply put down to top side motion, and why their Comms were not functioning that well today.
The ANGRY DAWN: PLAN SSK Leopard Class Submarine
Captain Peng strode across the attack centre to his Navigators console, if his internal timing clock was correct, they should be due to alter course very shortly, tacking hard left to zig back across the Lombok strait once again. On paper to the casual observer it would seem simple, in a narrow waterway, with commercial shipping, violent weather and extremely strong currents, it was proving to be anything but, a simple search and destroy mission. As soon as the Captain had received his mission orders the planning had started, being unfamiliar with the strait they had decided to enter the strait from the north east corner of the channel.
It had come as a nasty surprise to the Captain and his executive officer, the currents inside the deep channel were much stronger than expected, had Chinese Naval charts been current this simply would not have been the case. The operational result for the Angry dawn however, was their battery consumption had been almost double predictions, forcing the recharging to take place much, much earlier and slowing their search.
But the RAAF’s true foresight had come in the weapons suite for the D, model. Carrying no less than 8 Harpoon block 6, SSM’s her over the horizon ship killing ability was unmatched, 12, Mk 62, next generation ADCAP heavy torpedoes, hung lethally inside the carnivorous weapons bay to compliment her sleek white Harpoon SSM’s. The Mk 62 torpedoes were a co operative development with the USN, ranging out to 60 nautical miles and capable of speed in excess on 70 knots, the Mk 62’s were the most adaptable and feared torpedo currently in operation their major feature ide from the significant increase in operational speeds, was the ability to be dropped from their launch aircraft and greater speeds and altitudes, steer able fins and a larger drogue chute, contributing largely to the success of this.
Goss Hawks real threat to would be aggressors however was its carrying of 4 AAMs, the current generation of AMRAAM, matched to Goss Hawks fire control radar gave the P3 try survivability in the face of hostile fighters. What the RAAF and the RAN had also foreseen was that this also gave the P3 the ability to take down ASW / AEW choppers which may well be operating of ships, thus reducing their OTH capabilities. Neither the RAN nor the RAAF had been content with this, hence the drogue units for aerial refueling of other aircraft, most notably fighter escorts.
The RAN / RAAF co operation on this front had been nothing short of miraculous, frequent fighter sweeps were conducted with the aid of P3’s, effectively doubling and then some, the range of the E model super hornets. Today however Goss Hawk 1 was solo, technically operating with Indonesian territory, but like most RAN missions of recent not abnormal.
The earlier burst transmission package received from RAN HQ, had contained data from the ADF’s most secret installation outside of a few bases on the continent itself. The Northwestern Sosus barrier. This barrier of ocean bed sonar arrays was in every way similar to the units employed by Nato for the GUIK area in the Atlantic ocean. The difference was this particular barrier was laid at the entrance and exit to three straits, the Lombok straight, splitting Bali and the Island of Lombok, the much shallower Sunda Strait and the Makassar Strait. All three straits, unbeknown to their adjacent countries had the sonar arrays.
Their installation had taken the RAN and the ADF with USN help over 10 years to install. Both RAN and USN planners had foreseen the need for upgrades as time progressed, the first 6 years of project Flounder had simply been the covert installation of the sea floor cable system and the progressive joining of the arrays. The major hurdle of the network was getting all the data back to ADF bases in Australia and it had in the early planning stages been the deal breaker for approval from Canberra.
The commissioning of the Collins class subs and special underwater attachments along with a Data collection location changed everything almost overnight. The RAN could now, via stealth, roll out hundreds of kilometers of cable at a time via the Collins class boats, without raising any suspicion what so ever, but the DATA gathering point had been the real departure for the ADF. Situated on the island of Borneo, the ADF’s most secret and covert undercover facility, gathered all data from the Sosus nets and transmitted via encrypted burst transmissions this data to a RAN Milstar grade Satellite in orbit, this in turn bounced the data packages back to ADF HQ Canberra for almost real time analyses.
Unlike the GUIK SONAR Sosus arrays, prosecution could not occur in almost real time and also given the time to transit the three straights for any prosecuting aircraft would simply need to wait at the other end for the submerged contact to appear, then sink them or track the unit as was operationally required.
This time however, the target had not exited the strait but had remained within the channel. The Lombok strait was up to 250 meters deep, far deeper than either the Malacca or Sunda which maxed out at 25-30 meters in depth. The ADF had become worried that a Chinese PLAN SSK submarine of the Snow Leopard class had remained on station for nearly two weeks, these submarines whilst being the Killer / Attack class of SSK’s were also fitted out for special operations teams of PRC Naval assault troops. That was really what started hearts beating in Canberra. Rather than raise suspicions, the ADF had merely keep track of the exits, twice having a P3D perform a pass to roughly locate the SSK and proceed on, trying not to draw any suspicion or give the PRC an inkling that the submarine had been detected.
As time progressed other indicators had surfaced, the Chinese it seemed, were making a move on Borneo and maybe even making a move on the ADF data post for control the arrays. Either way, intelligence indicators were starting to light up all across the ADF’s northern area, US intelligence supplementing ADF takes were causing significant concern in Washington and this was duly passed on the Australian defense force head quarters in Canberra. The PM was not at all impressed.