PART 7: Celebes Sea Continued-HMAS Perth . HMAS Melbourne

27.6.2016

HMAS Perth 2

The Captain put the Radio receiver back in its Cradle and turned toward his XO,  “ XO lets have revolutions for 15 knots and as soon as the Melbourne’s radars come up on line, have CIC shut down all radars and then bring us to a bearing of 223, after we pass after of the Melbourne I want 35 knots and all stations manned for surface action” he said, before turning towards the Stairs down to CIC,

“ Aye Sir” Called the XO, turning to scan the horizon with the big eye binoculars, before looking back at the Captain heading for the exit, “ Captain leaving the Bridge, XO has the helm”  he Called, before resuming his search of the horizon. The Xo now satisfied that the horizon was clear and there was no imminent threat to the ship that he could at least see, turn towards the officer of the watch.

“Watch Officer, you have them helm, I’m heading to CIC with the Captain, don’t run over anything” he said with a sly smile before pulling back the blackout curtain and descending down into the ship.

Opening up the CIC master hatch, the XO stepped in, only to immediately be greeted by the Captain, “ XO, meet me at the plot, I have a couple of idea we need to discuss” he said before wandering over to one of the EW drone operators.  Finished talking with the drone operator about is status, the captain strode back over to the main plot table, leaning over to the plot controls he expanded the view to take in only the Celebes sea and surrounding islands, finished with that, he produced a china graph pen and started to mark up the plot table.

XO, we are going to lay a trap for our inbounds, given the closure rate we don’t exactly have a lot of time, but we figure that the separation between the two ships could be about 5 kilometres with us out in front running silent and the Melbourne steam slightly away from the inbounds fully radiating” he said as he showed the respective plot lines on the illuminated plotting table. Drawing two lines diverging and the other coming into the Melbourne, the Perth would be in an early shoot position on the two aircraft, her Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles more than capable of dealing with the two inbound Bogies if they proved to be hostile.

Considering the plot a little more before speaking, the Captain looked up, “OX, lets get a status on the Standard Echos can we and I want a time to airborne on both choppers, they need to be loaded for surface warfare, standard fit out please, I’m heading for the Bridge”. And with that the Captain pulled aside the curtain and exited the CIC, leaving the XO to relay the orders to the respective departments. Heading over to the Air warfare console, the XO called of the chief of the boat, “ Chief, Captain wants the echo’s checked out for status, can you have one of your team find out, run a diagnostic and get back to me asap, not sure why he wants to look at the ECHO’s, but I expect we will find out soon enough.

The Xo watched the chief spin on his heels and disappear down the hallway towards the techs that maintained the ships weapons, WSO or weapons systems operators where sharp and given no reports had been received both the chief and the XOI were confident that all would good.

All was working like clockwork in the CIC the Captain could see, just as the chief of the boat entered back in from his trip and wandered up to the XO, the Air Operations Officer piped up from his console, “Captain, Flight ops can be airborne in 5 minutes from your say so Sir, they are prepping the birds now” the young ensign called.

Gently rubbing the stubble slightly forming on his chin, the Captain spoke, “ Let’s get them Airborne then, tell Air ops I want both birds heading in the opposite direction to us, they are to maintain an altitude of 300ft and no farther back than 10 kilometres until further orders. Clear?” he asked,

 

‘Aye Sir’ was the ensigns reply before the Captain listed to him repeat the message with about the same amount of emphasis, satisfied it was now moving according to plan he spoke with the Xo again, “ Let’s go topside for the fly over of these things shall  we Xo?”  Herdie Said, Nodding to his Captain, the XO followed him out of CIC he ladder onto the Bridge. The Xo had just straightened up when the overhead speaker came to life, “Bridge, CIC we have additional Surface Search radars at 263 and Air search, designate both Systems as……………….. AN/BPS-16 that’s a USN Los Angeles class system , we also have Coms Flash traffic from that bearing code RED” Called the speaker.

Whilst the Royal Australian Navy and the United States Navy did not tell each other where their warships would be at any given moment, the two countries had already long ago established a system for sharing of communication codes, And the reason was for just such an event as was now transpiring, urgent communications between two different groups of warships that had been performing different tasks, one not knowing the other was present.

It Took the Captain and Xo less than 10 seconds to exit the Wing on the bridge and be back down in the CIC, both having scaped legs on the one step ladder descent into the ships bowels. Shouting “ coming through” as they barged into the CIC  so as to make sure nobody got cleaned up on their way in, Both the Captain and XO stopped at the plot table as the Com’s officers delivered the Flash message hot of the printer. The Captain opened the message from the young ensign.

 

********************************************************************

FLASH OPS TRAFFIC

To:                          CALL SIGN BADGER: DDG  RAN Melb

From:                    CALL SIGN MORAY: SSN 752 Pasadena

Date: 26/11/2021-   Time: 1648 Zulu

MESSAGE:                           Priority RED- Code AMBER

CMDR RAN SAG

Inbound Bandits Tu22M, regiment Strength + have  confirmed Visual.

************

Expect SSM attack or similar flight profile, white shots on wings

Establishing Link 16 via TACEYE/ROTS soonest to your location

Will conduct ASW Sweep

************

Surface group – Gun boats detected 100 miles Nth Est you location. Attack profile SSM 8 birds per unit, intercept speed 40+knots

Screw count for 9 vessels, recommend course alt

Suspect PLAN/PRC RAS Group in vicinity Nth East of Palau Singihe, 300nm SSE of Davo Island.

************

Hunker down/ stay cool, will feed targeting data on air threat as long as possible.

CMDR Pasadena Out.

Message End:——————————————————–

 

Naval Commanders are taught from the very beginning that they set the tone on the ship; it’s like all Command situations, where if you show signs of losing control it will pervade your command to the lowest level. A calm, clear and concise leader is required for Military situations where lives are at stake, the Commander of the Melbourne Captain Russell Herd was no different, if anything, he had eaten the book having read it twice some would say.

Handing the Flash message to the XO the Captain grabbed the 1MC intercom for the Ship wide broadcast system.

“All hands, this is the Captain Speaking. We will remain at Action Stations for the time being and I am about to launch both Helos” he said, whilst doing that he point to the XO and mouthed the word ‘get the helo’s up”, to which the XO nodded.

Satisfied the Captain continued. “ We have inbound a Regimental size Backfire attack force , we had detected two units, but we have received a flash message from the USS Pasadena who is some 120 miles west of us, Seems they overflew her, so we  are about to establish a link 16 hook up and should have telemetry and targeting data . The backfires have war shots under the wings” he said, letting that message hang for some second in silence”, he continued. “And we also have a warning that there is a small surface action flotilla of approximately 9 high speed craft some 100 plus miles to our North East and closing.

Seems that this might well be a Chinese Naval group as well and I’ll wager that our presence has mightily pissed off the Chinese. I don’t expect anything more than to be buzzed and harassed, but we all need to be sharp, if it turns to custard we will defend ourselves and beat the snott out of them, good luck!” the Captain hung up the microphone and strolled over to the plot table with the XO sitting on the other side, looking at the two groups and the data streaming in beside them on the plotter. The XO looked up at the Captain before speaking, “ Sir, I’m not linking the situation we are in, but once the Link 16 data arrives I will be a lot happier. Those backfires can shoot a bunch of missiles at us and between us and the Melbourne we can knock’em all down, problem is, if the surface action group decided they want a piece of our hide and get shots away before we do..then we will most likely be out of SAM’s to shoot at’em….that fkn worries me” the XO let out.

You are right XO, it’s going to get a bit hairy if it goes South, so I want worst case right now, we need to coordinate this with the Melbourne, she’s got the Best SAM fit out and I have an idea we need to figure out fast, here’s what I have in mind” , the Captain proceeded to explain to the chief how the puzzle would come together, both ships and aircraft.

Walking away from the plot the Captain Called out. “ XO, lets bring the ship hard to port, I want us to close to within a thousand yards of the Melbourne and a couple of ship lengths of her starboard quarter, Com’s get the Melbourne’s Commander on the horn, I need to speak with him fast.”

Peoples Liberation Navy: PLAN Flotilla Celebes Sea

The flotilla of vessels was not a large one, but manifestly dangerous, certainly enough to sail into harm’s way thought Pi. Pi Xenophon, Commander of the Dragon attack craft flotilla, NATO code Name Houbei Fats attack boats, Pi’s small group on 9 surface attack boats were racing across the central Pacific Ocean at 46 knots each, spay flinging up room their bows with each crashing boom as the front of the attack craft slammed into the slight swell. To the flotillas left or starboard side sat the island of HALAOU, its lush green tropical mid equator forest clearly visibly in the afternoon sunlight, even from this distance PI could see the various sea birds and the likes gently fluttering about the white sandy beaches. Another thump, this one slightly more serious and from a slightly different direction brought Pi back to the present, “ what was that “ he growled at the helmsman he was standing beside, having to shout to be heard over the twin screaming marine diesel engines.

“ Sir,” the young marine shouted Back, his eye not deviating from the horizon ahead, “Jade 1 crossed over to our port side and we ran through their chop” he explained. “ Fine, let’s get a call into them by lamp, I don’t want to break radio Silence yet, I want the flotilla to extend with  echelon right, we should get satellite data shortly giving us a bearing on the Australian ships, those Aussie pigs shall see just how stealthy we really are , they’ll pay for challenging the might of the Peoples Liberation Navy”

The young marine in front of his Commander, continued, gaze fixed, he had seen Pi in these mood before, the last time had resulted in them having a running gun battle with the filthy Imperialist loving pigs of the Taiwanese Navy, that had cost them two boats and 60 men, for a single Taiwanese bandit craft being sunk, Rumour had it the high command had almost had Pi arrested and shot, had it not been for his extension military connections.

Pi continued looking about, scanning his attack group for any signs that craft were not committing or might be having problems keeping up, his was the most recently overhauled unit and as such produced more horsepower than the others. That had been evident when they had  a drag race at sea a month before, the Golden dragon topping out at 46 and half knots, 4 knots better than the next fasted attack boat.

Continuing his scan around his gaze finally settled on the sleek grey canisters at the rear of his boat, 8 of them all neatly stacked together, each canister housing a surface to surface missile, the latest of the type in the Chinese arsenal. Ship killers, or if needs be the warheads could be reprogrammed to attack land targets as well. But not today, today they were going to sink the Australian Navy Vessels and would claim that it was bandits, sea pirates or a mishap on one of the Australian vessels.

Pi put his Binoculars down and placed them in the cabins holder right beside the helms man. “ I’m going down below, keep a lookout up here XO”, he said, then turning, wobbling slightly as he adjusted his feet and motion to that of the boat and went down into the attack centre.

The attack centre crew all seen him push in past the blackout curtain, he could see their collective faces, “so young he thought to himself, it was not that long ago you were their age my friend he thought. Continuing in, he stopped at the rear of the seat for the Electronic Warfare Officer, in actual rank an ensign in the PLAN Navy, looking at the EW screen he spoke.

“ How are we, what transmissions have we detected from the capitalist pigs  boats” he almost spat the last words out, the contempt clearly evident in his voice.

“Sir I have transmissions from the HMAS Perth flight 2 DDG Sir and I am sure I might have faintly detected an surface search radar from one of their new S75 improved Seahawk ASW/ attack helicopters” said the ensign, clearly up to date on the latest TO & E for the DDG of the Royal Australian Navy.

“ Excellent, Excellent” soothed Pi, happy with the current state, “ do we have a detection threshold on the ship conducting the freedom of Navigation exercise yet or any other transmissions” he said, standing back up straight and looking around the room whilst he waited for his answer.

It was the chief of the boat, who spoke for the assembled group in the CIC. “Captain, PI, we have no other transmissions of a hostile nature, I have data from our flight group of attack bombers that are currently planning on rattling the brains of the Australian ship, they are 10 minutes out, otherwise I have only the Surface and air search radars of the DDG”.

Good thought PI, the diversion would work perfectly, although is attack craft were part stealth and they carried 8 missiles each, the Australian DDG was a tough nut, aside from her 16 short range SAMS, she carried a formidable Close in weapons defence armament, and guns, lots of guns. Pi had been amazed when he had seen the first photos of the RANS new Perth Class DDG, not at all like the American DDGS, she carried 4 sets of turrets, 2 fore and two aft with twin mounts on each, beautiful he though. But that was not the only issue, the ship was heavily armoured and would, it was thought survive numerous hits, so well was she armoured and compartmentalised. The PLAN had discovered that sections had reactive armour, which would completely nullify any SSM they shot at her.

It was decided that to overwhelm her they would need to get in close and that’s where the distraction of the Airstrike package came in, it would draw the Australians attention, long enough for the 9 craft of the attack flotilla to close with 20 miles, just over the horizon, then, with telemetry data from the attack aircraft’s pass they would shoot their missiles at her, giving the ship no more that 3 minutes to live. What was left over would be cleaned up by his flotilla when they closed into gun range.

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PART 6: Celebes Sea & USS Pasadena SSN – 752

CELEBES SEA: HMAS PERTH 2

 

HMAS PERTH was fully radiating, her air and surface search radars fully energised, her sister ship the flight 2, Air Warfare Destroyer HMAS Melbourne was not, under full em-con she was not leaking any electronic noise, her crew were all at action stations and the ships systems, whilst not radiating were at full standby mode, able to transition to active at the click of a mouse button.

“Sir” Called out the Air Warfare officer at the ships radar console in CIC,

“ I have  two inbound bogies, bearing 236, speed 600 knots at angels 5,  Range 100 miles”

The Captain, now firmly secured in his CIC command chair stared at the large overhead display, the two new bogies clearly plotted on the superimposed layout of the ocean, surrounding islands and various other targets or vessels out to 250 miles.

The Captain studies the display a little while longer before speaking “ seems everybody else in the neighbourhood knows something we do not, by those surface tracks all the merchant shipping is sprinting away from us……fast” he said, the implications of which were clearly evident on his face.

“XO, let’s get a flash message off to Canberra and tell the Melbourne we recommend that she go active and take the lead, I’m going to launch a TACEYE drone in 2 minutes, lets look sharp people, the Chinese is not happy we are conducting this transit and they will be even less so when they realise there are two ships here”    

  

 

USS PASADENA  SSN -752. 100nm Northwest of HMAS MELBOURNE & PERTH

The USN 688 class attack submarine USN Pasadena was at 35 feet, her main attack mast snaking through the slight chop at a leisurely 20 knots as her ESM gear picked up all sorts of electronic noise, it was however her other sensors that detected the over flight of aircraft.

The XO currently had the conn and was sweeping the horizon visually with the attack periscope when he detected the inbound aircraft

” Bring the ship to action stations, Inform the Captain we have multiple inbound aircraft, crash dive, helm make your depth 300 feet all ahead flank, right full rudder. Weps, I want noise makers in front and rears tubes, and get me a playback of the horizon sweep please. ESM I want any signals we detected analysed and classified fast!”

The XO had no sooner exited the Captain’s chair when the Captain burst through the blackout curtains into CIC, “ Ok Burt “ He called to his XO as he stepped up into the chair  ” what’s do we got happening now”

Standing on the angle the XO looked at the Captain and turned back toward the overhead monitor, now coming alive with his previous sweep of the horizon. The Captain and Xo were staring intently at the monitors playback, clearly showing the current sea state, slowly as the XO had panned the combat periscope around the aircraft came into view “ There “ called the captain, “ Stop and enlarge that frame” he called to nobody in particular. Behind them the tech that was replaying the vision manipulated the controls as slowly the aircraft, now clearly identifiable as 6 units came closer into view.

10 bucks, 10 bucks we have backfire that the chinks bought inbound” Called the Captain.

 

Looking across from his position the chief showed and rather incredulous look..”Ill not wager against you Sir, they are definitely Backfires and Given the Australian surface groups last position, they are heading straight for them, that’s a piss pot full of hurt heading their way if it turns nasty and given the altitude” the XO peered in closer to the screen.

“ Ill say at 50 feet they won’t know they are on them until it’s too late in my opinion” said the XO.

“you might be right “ the Captain called,

“ lets make the playing field level hey,…….. bring us up to periscope depth XO, make it fast I want a flash message to the RAN surface group asap warning of their inbound bandit count, “ the bogies on the RAN screens were now being classified as bandits, hostile targets with a probable nasty intent thought the captain.

Everybody in the control centre braced as the Pasadena’s helmsmen brought her rapidly up towards the ocean’s surface, the crash dive order having now been rescinded. The Pasadena was only making 12 knots now with the sudden change in her direction and the sonar teams acoustics were working at almost full capacity, certainly good enough to detect several engines and propellers starting up at once.

”Con Sonar, I have multiple screw sounds, range is distant, but certainly 20K meters, second convergence zone Sir, making revolution for ……… 30 plus knots,  Fast boats Captain, probable attack boats or we have an ocean boat race that we were not aware of” called the sonar man. The whole boat including the CIC team were now glued to their microphones and speakers, awaiting the next call from the sonar team “, Bearing changing now, coming around to 366, that’s a straight bearing for the RAN surface group Sir, I have turns for 35 knots and still increasing, I make the boat count at 9 units Sir, they must have been close inshore to the island and reefs Captain, anchored up without motors running.

The Captain look perplexed, certainly not overly worried, “ OX thoughts, I’m willing to take bets those boats are not starting an ocean race, that makes them more than likely Chinese PLAN units and fast attack craft, likely to have surface to surface missiles, ideas on type?” He enquired.

The XO was  reviewing data on one of the nearby terminals, flicking through another set of screen he and closing the page before he turned to the Captain.

“ Sir my estimation is that they would be the previous  generation of missile attack craft , probably the 220X (Houbei) design. It’s a trimaran hull that can achieve maximum wave piercing performance at high speeds, up to 40 knots Sir. Stealthy design and has two missile-houses, that can possibly be fitted with various ordnance. Eight missiles of the YJ83 anti-ship missiles type are believed to be carried, as well as a single AK630 CIWS for self-defense. Last count was 18 hulls, they have both the endurance and sea keeping abilities to get this far, but not without tanker support Sir, we have a Chinese RAS group out here that we are not yet aware of Sir and that could mean heavier units as well” the Xo added for good measure, having just arrived at the conclusion himself.

The Captain was deep in thought the XO could see, “Christ Burt thought to himself, 72 missiles potentially the small attack craft fleet could launch at the two Australian warships, although both were well equipped and the missiles were very capable, some were surely to leak through” he thought and then he froze.

“oh Shit” Burt blurted and in the process stopped everybody on the sub who was within ear shot, looking back over his shoulder towards the XO the Captain Spoke, “Well Burt, you wanna share the epiphany you just had with the rest of us” the Captain enquired lightly, with eye brows raised.

The XO took a visible deep breath, “ Captain, the Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers have a 48 cell VLS system, of which, 4 cells are normally used for the ESSM system , or Evolved Sea Sparrow SAMs, and they are quad packed, 4 bird per cell he explained, looking at the Captain and then around the compartment to various nods.

So if she has a full load out, she has 16 ESSM’s plus the left over Standard SAMS, which would be 44, so she has a total of 60 SAM’s, the Modified Perth Fight 2 DDG has an 8 Cell ESSM systems which is another 32 SAMS, giving them a total SMA count of 92 war shots for a possible 72 inbounds. And I am assuming they are fully loaded out”. Having though he was finished, the Burt stood motionless in the Pasadena’s CIVC watching the Captain as he mulled over what had been said. Still looking at his XO the Captain spoke, Con bring us up fast, sail only exposed, Sonar, I want a full active sweep, make sure we have nobody and i mean nobody within 50 miles of us”.

Having issued his orders, the various departments responded in kind, “ Con sonar, we have zero targets on passive, now going active Captain, how many sweeps Sir” asked his leading sonar man. Whilst both the Captain and Xo were hovering over the plot table  he spoke again.

“Sonar, I want three sweeps and one every 2 minutes thereafter until we are back under, EWO, As soon as we break the surface I want both surface and air search radars up and radiating and link 16 online, If we can get a tether to the RAN we can data link, so the ROTS drone needs to lift off the minute the pods clear understood”. It was s followed by ‘”Aye Sir” from all quarters, as he focused back on the plot table.

Looking at the plot, it was clear that the 9 surface contacts were still some considerable distance from the small surface group of Australian Navy ships, but that didn’t matter once inside 200 kilometres which the little flotilla was, But they still needed targeting data the Captain knew, just like the Backfire bombers that had just over flown them or they would be shooting their missiles into a larger circle of where they hoped the fleet would be.

 

Spreading his hand over the plot table the Captain explained to his XO his plan. “Burt, as soon as ROTS is up get on the horn to the RAN SAG and get the link 16 established, we should have both surface and air targeting data to be able to feed them, right behind ROTS I want a TACEYE prepped and launched, I plan on taking us back to periscope depth  and have the TACEYE relay its own targeting data back to the SAG, whilst we stay undetected, I don’t fancy on having one of the Backfires turn around and pop a missile into out lovely sail, that would fuck the whole show right royally I think”, he said, seeing also a grin spread across the XO’s face and a nod at the plan also.

It was a simple plan really, the SNN Pasadena and its TACEYE drone would radiate its radar and track both surface groups, proving targeting data to the RAN SAG which should allow them to not radiate and give away their position, certainly long enough to get a few early shots in or at least that was what the Commander of the Pasadena had in mind.

“ Any further ideas you have XO would be welcome, now’s the time” the Captain said.

Captain, I think we should be letting the SAG commander know that his priority targets are the surface fleet, hes got to have at least 16 harpoons between his two ships and I would be recommending two birds per target, if he even halves the surface vessels numbers arrayed against him, its going to give him more SAMS V SSM’s in bound and if they have any air assets I’d be having them head into the teeth of that flotilla as well or provide some eyes on and targeting data as well”

Shifting slightly, the XO continued,” Captain, our ROE at present does not allow us to shoot unless fired upon, that extends also to the TACEYE and ROTS units Sir” he said, letting the line hand in the air, it was thin and the XO knew full well it was and could result in them having their heads and careers both terminated and posted on COMPACFLTS office wall in Pearl alongside other not so bright Commanders.

Without looking up the Captain replied, “ XO, are you suggesting we move both or one unit closer and provoke an incident, I would myself move the units closer to ensure that we maintain contact with these forces and glean whatever intel we can from anything they do, If by chance they opt to fire on our assets we might be free to respond in self Defence,……. lets get that on the printer to Pearl and request a weapons free conditionally, that ROE’s gotta change” he said as he headed towards the galley.

Part 5′ Log Base Alice Springs

ALICE SPRINGS NT:

 

Just out of Alice Springs the highways heading straight north for Katherine from Darwin has a small turn off to the left, the road which rapidly becomes a secondary dirt road is the national short cut to Broome or the Kimberly, the Tanami highway run for approximately 800 kilometres before striking the national highway number one, running across the top end of Australia through the Kimberley’s from Darwin to the north west coast of Western Australia, through towns such as Broome and Port headland, before meandering down the Western Australian coast towards Perth.

The trip. From Alice Springs to the coastal town of Broome is 1697 kilometres, via the railway line recently completed its 2107 kilometres of fast train track. The twin track was the sitting Prime Ministers Nation building project, or one stage of it, the second stage of track which runs from Alice springs east across NSW is still under construction and in danger of not being completed. The total budget for the two lines, stretching and thus connecting the east coast of Australia with the West coast of Australia is slated to cost the Australian tax payer $85 billion dollars. The first stage, which the second will be the same as is a twin line , fast rail system for high speed diesel trains, capable of speeds up to 200km per hour, although as was pointed out and tested, the daylight speed is 200 kmph and the night speed is much slower due to large animals such as cattle, kangaroo’s and as one train discovered, the odd camel.

The lines were even more unique than those in operation by either Japan or Europe in so far as them having loop siding on both tracks allowing for closure of one track and two way train traffic still being able to operate on the remaining track. The utility also allowed for the operation of heavy loco haulage, the larger units stopping at the loop sidings to allow the Fast train services to flash past with their personnel on board and many tourists, fresh fruit or whatever other time critical produce might be required on the 200 kilometre per hour postal service.

The central hub for the Fats line east west project was Alice Springs, it being the natural central point already exiting for road transport from the northern tip of Australia to the southern states and it was here that the primary Military transfer depots, fuel and other Logistical units set up there permanent transitory bases.

The sprawling military complex on the western side of Alice covered some 400 hectares, train lines, pol facilities and vehicle hard stand areas were systematically dispersed about the base and constrained within its massive chainmesh and razor wire fence, capped off with state of the art motion detection systems and animal dispersion measures.

ADF Base Log Centre Alice springs West

The base was vast, as far as the eyes could see there were railway cars, some fully loaded with palletised gear, some with armoured vehicles, tanks, and APC’s and tracked SAM units. Others covered in tarpaulins with odd shaped equipment underneath, to the casual observer they would have no idea, but the trained eye would have established they were artillery pieces. And then there were the vast stacks of shipping containers, some in desert camouflage patterns, some in mottled green others in olive drab and yet more still colour in the vast array used by the worlds shipping companies.

Whilst all this collection was coming and going at slow intervals, the random clunking noises would on regular occasion be punctuated by the high pitched shrill of the numerous passenger Very fast trainings blitzing through on the 200 km/ph plus journeys, the odd one showing very prominent signs of having impacted with the local wild life at some point all over the frontal nose. At the facilities last platform two Australian military officers, distinguishable by their auscam pattern uniform stood rock steady as the passenger express Fats train speed past them, wind clearly rocking them as the carriages spanned by one after the other. The train’s last carriage speed by before the senior Officer looked at his opposite number, clearly his mind focusing as the last vestiges of noise and wind subsided.

Lt Colonel Mike Sinclair, commanding Officer of  2 commando company, stood motionless, clearly gathering his thoughts before turning to the Regimental Sergeant Major standing beside him, The RSM for 2 Commando, Warrant Officer John Hildebrandt, 6 foot 3 and 120 kilograms and at age 52 Boom Boom as he was know about the regiment was an impressively imposing sight. Physically and vocally adept at scaring the living begeebers out of NCO’s, diggers and junior officers alike, the RSM stood still waiting on the Colonel to speak as he knew he was deep in thought.

John” the Colonel said, using the RSM’s fist name as he had habit to do when they were alone, “how’s the speeder troop coming along, I’ve not heard much about the integration of the sleds of recent?” he enquired whilst looking over the rail yard, now clearly exposed to their front as the fast train carriages no longer blocked the view.

The RSM had been waiting for the last couple of days to see who would enquire about F Troop as they were internally being referred to, the RSM turned slightly toward the Colonel, “Sir “ he said, before the Colonel waved a hand at him clearly indicating the Sir bit was not needed and for about the millionth time,

 

“ Leave the mickey mouse out Sarnt Major, Whats the scoop please straight up? “He said.

 

“ well John Mike would you like me to start” Said the RSM, and Before the Colonel could get a word in the RSM ploughed on.

“ It Seems Mike that our intrepid fellows in the newly created F troop “ he said, and the Colonel instantly smiling at his reference to the small units designation, the lettering of which had clearly generated much discussion and banter at higher head quarters over who in the F Troop would play each part in the T V series, the Colonel let the RSM continue.

The NCO’s, Digs and the junior officers are taking to them like ducks to water, probably more like the ability to drink beer I would suggest John, but from what I’ve seen when I was out with them lst week, it’s a scary capability we are developing…….” The RSM paused for a bit to see if the Colonel wanted to say anything of take up the conversation, seeing no comments were coming forth he continued on.

“ I watched a section attack with the speeders, they were two me up per unit as you know” his hands displaying the set up of man up and man facing forward, “And they attacked over three dunes, those new 4 stroke engines and the suppressors we had fitted mean the bastard thing are on you before you can hear them” and to emphasis the point the RSM was pointing out distance to some nearby containers, “ Mike I watched one approach and I shirt you not, it was 20m away before I knew it was there, then you have the from mounted hardware and armour plate, the smoke canisters they have fitted and Christ knows who came up with that idea, but its brilliant. They Have infrared driving lights for the PNVG gear and rear mounted GPMG or minimi and some units actually tow equipment sleds behind as well with extra ammo an supplies, the sleds also double up as casevac units too” he said as he tapped the arm of the Colonel.

The Colonel was clearly impressed and more so that it seemed the RSM was really getting into the conversation, there had been doubts about the regiment on just how the RSM might react to the new troop and also to the new order of battle, their RSM was known to be fairly regimented at times as many had discovered the hard way.

As if almost by divine intervention, they were both still looking across the container yard as a camouflaged G wagon merc 4wd pulled up with a trailer on behind it, attached to which was a tan and green snow mobile, somewhat out of place, 30 minutes north west of Alice Springs.

Both the Colonel and the RSM watched as the G wagon crunched to a halt and twp of its occupants bailed out from each side and walked back towards the trailer,

“ Looks like a live specimen here John” the RSM called as he bent down and hopped off the platform onto the tracks, the looking straight up down the train line as he remembered the red smear all over the front  of the fast train that had recently blew past them. Satisfied that he was not about to be collected and realising it was really too late, he looked back at the Colonel.

“ coming John, we might as well as those troopers over there” his armed extended and pointing at the G wagon, “ what they think, fist hand’

The Colonel kept looking at the troopers now unhooking the trailer, then stole a glance down the train line to make sure no trainings were coming before bending down to get off the platform “ Jesus” he said, “ I’me getting to old for this shit as he hopped off the platform and strode with the RSM over to the troopers who had very clearly now worked out they had visitors coming…….important visitors.

“Stand Fast” Called the junior NCO a corporal, the other two diggers stiffening at the rear of the wagon, the third occupant having clearly been told that company was about to descent upon them and it might well be best if he was not sitting on his arse in the car when the C O and RSM arrived for a chat.

“ As you were” Called the Colonel,  they three intrepid travellers relaxing somewhat , but clearly still on a heightened alert level given the company they were currently keeping.

“ Gents, the RSM and I have been discussion  you lot and your new found toys  and were wondering about something when luck would have it, you materialised in front of us so we thought we might take the opportunity to have a look at the new kit and ask you a few questions.”

The Colonel looked across at his RSM who was showing no signs of emotion as he stared benignly at the three soldiers. “ Good thought Jim, I need these lads to give us their honest thoughts.

what’s your thoughts Sarnt Major” he asked, leading in the RSM to the conversation and hopping he was picking up on the light tone.

 

“ Well sir I think they are right bloody quick and I must say, not what I had expected. Given what I have seen Sir, they are pretty formidable, the lads have done well and so have the engineers” said the RSM, now standing beside the snow and sand mobile.

The RSM was sitting on the snow mobile, which now being an offensive combat weapon for desert operations and extensively modified had taken on a sinister look. The sporting and recreational world had been swapping out key elements of the snow mobiles to allow their operation in the sandy environment, it had taken a letter from a very adept trooper to the CO of 2 Commando and things had snow balled from there.

 

The units that the RSM and the Lt Colonel were currently checking over were for all intents and purposes the 3rd generation of the scorpions as the ADF lads had taken to calling them. The ADF scorpions were 900cc 4 stroke units with a special induction kit and muffler silencing system. The ADF’s choice of the 4 stroke was its ability to operate in hotter extremes, with less water and also less noise. Quieting down the slightly larger 1000cc two stroke cousin had created massive power loss, and when it was to to exit dodge under fire….you want all the fkn power ya can have” had exclaimed one testing trooper.

The engineers had listened to the wish list of the troopers when the first demo models were sent back to the US manufacturer in a slightly used and not so shinny condition. Attached to the front of each bike was as one manufacturers engineer described” That’s a fkn big list” attached there. And so the engineers stated to work on a prototype.

If the Army test team had been able to eaves drop on the engineering meetings of the snow mobile manufacturers, the engineers, after an initial inspection of the returned trial machines had taken the attached lists and married them up with those that had been emailed across to them from the OZTRALIANS as the team pronounced it, mind you, the engineers later after inspection of the machines in details had used a lot more unsavoury and descriptive terms. One young engineer had called the ossies “Fucking feral” and gone on to deliver a string of further expletives as had proceeded to find more broken parts on the machines the deeper he dug.

It was revealed that the Australian test teams had given the units a serious work out, items that would typically show wear after years of use, had in the period of three months shown greater wear, others that the engineers had never seen broken were mangled beyond all belief. One technician had called in the senior program engineer and held out to him in the tweezers what looked like red and grey animal fur, not being sure exactly what the material was the senior program engineer hesitated before grabbing a plastic bag and taking the furry sample from the Tech.

“What the fuck is this and where in the hell did you find it” he enquired. The technician had already thought this through and was prepared for the senior engineer’s enquirery, after waving for the manager to follow they stopped at a snow mobile that had already had the front removed and sat to the side. The Senior programmed looked at it or what once looked like the front nose cone of a 15 thousand dollar snow mobile, the fur on it, of which he was now sure that’s what it was as the other streaks looked like blood.

Looking back from the mangled and bloodied nose cone with the serious internal bulge, he could see that the front section comprising of the motor, wind shield and intake system was flat. The whole thing having been impacted by an object of large weight and at some velocity.

“All right Bret” the chief engineer spoke to the tech, “ whats ya best guess, and how in the hell do we stop this sort of thing happening again, because sure as shit no warranty system will cover this type of impact”.

Bret had noticed how wide the Seniors engineers eyes had become and had nothing short of the largest smile on his face as the proceeded to reveal from behind his back a GOPRO camera which also looked like it had blood smeared over it.

Holding out the newly tinted GOPRO Bret spoke “well Chief, I have a very sneaky suspicion that the actual cause of this here incident “ as he pointed to the destroyed and bloody parts, “ Will be revealed by this camera which somebody left for us”.