Private Residence. Cable Beach Western Australia
It had been a while, but the he knew the signs from past experience and as far as Mat could see at the moment, all the stars were starting to Align. For most married couples, especially the men and more so with kids there are certain key signs that are left in the house jungle for those in the know.
Take for example, the simple fact that the kids are staying over at their friends house tonight, to most, that’s just regular event, but when matched with it being Friday night, the house is clean, the other half has been out during the day at the beauty salon and you are pretty sure that you can smell a new perfume. In isolation, they count for a little, but as a whole they point to a possibility that’s more possible than not, at least that’s what’s climbing through the head at warp speed.
But!….. like all signs left in the jungle you can easily be miss read, lead astray and generally go charging off into the sunset only to find your path blocked by the grizzly bear off all enemy simply because you have miss interpreted the signs….. And that spells doom for all.
So being a veteran, Joel new that more Intel was required so rather casually he wandered into the bathroom and checked…YES! Sure enough the razor had been out in the last 12 hours. That’s a good sign “he though as well. He figured that it really was not that hard now, one last sure sign would be somewhere and as soon as he walked through the bedroom door, having now shut down the whole house, turned off all lights secured all doors and windows, put out the rubbish and stacked the dishwasher all whilst walking on egg shells….did I mention cooking dinner as well?
He looked up to see her, there standing upright at the dresser was his wife, clad in silk shorts…the frilly type and a lovely red camisole to go with it …..”YES” Joel did a little internal fist pump as he quickly made his way to the bathroom to brush his teeth, the battlefield now survey, target located and ready to rock!
“ There really is a god’ he thought to himself as he opened the cabinet door for the toothpaste” Humming Will I am, ‘ Tonight’s gunna be a good night, tonight’s gunna be a good good night” ….hmmmmm hmm.
With that, Joel spun, turned off the light to the en-suite and walked over to the bed his wife was already in waiting for him, as she gently snored….sound asleep.
Lombok Straight, Indonesian Archipelago SSK TANGO 2 ( Black leopard)
It had taken 20 minutes to transit the Lombok straight at 10 knots against the 3 knot current. All whilst at periscope depth.The Black Leopard and its crew, now safely back under the waves and descending out of sight, allowed her Captain to relax ….. just a Little.
“XO let’s make our depth 400 ft, reduce speed to 6 knots and rig for silent, and then we will take a peek at what’s about” Said the Captain as he sat in the Black leopards Command chair. The Black Leopard was Tango 3 modified class SSK diesel electric hunter killer submarine, recently completing sea trails and being certified for full duties by the PLAN she had immediately been issued mission orders. The Black Leopard was not alone, staged behind her were another three Tango class SSK’s at 1 hour intervals, all hoping to sneak into the Indian Ocean undetected, all loaded out for war.
HMAS Perth (3) Celebes Sea 198km North of Nth Sulawesi.
HMAS Perth ( 2nd ) was cutting a sharp line through the Calm Celebes Sea, heading due west now, as she passed close by the Island of Ulu, part of the Philippines chain that stretched down to Sulawesi from the Philippine’s Island of DAVO. The island sat atop of the undersea ridge which separates the Celebes Sea from the Molucca Sea and the rest of the Indonesian Archipelago.
At 36 and a half knots HMAS Perth was running flat out, her combined 100 thousand shaft horsepower gas turbine engines churning the water to foam as she pulled ahead of her companion ship the HMAS Adelaide a current Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyer for the RAN. The two ships could not have been more opposed in their design philosophies, but they were siblings when you realised they were ships of war, meant to deal harm to others, each in their own way menacing and yet, with very different purposes in mind.
On the Perth’s Bridge Captain Herd stood, not a tall person by any standards at 5 foot 6, though a foul tempered one when required, the Perth was his last Command, at 47 Commander Russell herd, born in the Wimmera town ship of Horsham and son to cattle farming parents in the Balmoral district, this was the culmination of his Naval career. “Herdie” as his nickname was to friends and superiors, looked around the newly painted bridge of the Perth, marvelling at its transformation, his smile grew larger as his gaze settled on the New Air Warfare destroyer, the Hobart Class HMAS Adelaide, as she fell behind them, undoubtedly her own combination diesel and gas turbine engines running as fast as they could, yet unable to match her newer, yet older mate in this little drag race.
“I’ll bet Bob’s pissed at not being able to keep up” he mused, whilst looking back towards the bow.
And in reality, it was not a drag race; although the highly modified Perth class Destroyer, at a rated top speed of 36 knots was far quicker than the new Hobart class air warfare destroyer at 28 knots, but she was also 1000 tonnes lighter than the Perth. That would have been unusual to the educated in maritime ships of the Royal Australian navy, but the RAN had chosen, like their RAAF cousins to keep a class of ships and modify them for other purposes, in the case of the RAN they had kept the last two ships of the Perth Class DDGS which were also known as the USN Charles F Adams class of Guided Missile destroyers.
The RANS modified version was vastly different to the original and the changes had yielded quite astonishing results, the least of which was the slight increase in her rated top speed, the balance had been the modernisation of her weapons suit and electronics, the up armouring of the ship throughout, this alone added an extra 2000 tonnes to her overall weight with another 1000 tones coming from the electrics and another 500 tonnes from the extra gun mounts and magazine areas.
Those additions by themselves would have seen the top weight of the Perth balloon out to over 6500 tonnes fully displaced making her heavier than the Hobart Class Air warfare destroyer she was slowly leaving behind in her wake, but the changing out of her 1970’s style propulsion system, old combat systems and gun turrets had saved vast amounts of weight all across the ship and they had extensively utilised stainless steel,, Kevlar and composite laminates instead of heavier galvanised pipe and steel as was fitted when she was originally built.
The RAN had gutted the Ship, manly the internal structure and the hull remained and this was up armoured and lengthened before all the new equipment was installed. Being lead ship of her class she had her teething problems, but the RAN and builders BAE systems persevered and were rewarded with something unique, something that the United States Navy and the Royal Navy were looking very closely at.
The first ‘gun ship’ built by a western Navy in almost 40 years. Perth still had 3 phalanx close in weapons systems or CIWIS, she still fielded two Nulka Anti-Missile decoy systems, chaff, IR flares and a Massive EW suite and one 8 cell ESSM launcher, but her new adornments were what caused all the fuss. Double stacked at the front were two mounts, one behind the other in the World War 2 style. The four mounts, two fore and two after were the current naval gun systems in modified turrets. The rear or second gun in each stack fore and aft was the larger Mk 45 quick firing Cannon, mod 4 in 62 Calibres or 5 inch in the old scale as the Chief of the boat would brag. This latest version installed had a range of 37 kilometres. The Perth carried over 6000 rounds for the main turrets.
Supporting the Mk 45 batteries were twin bushmaster mounts in 25mm on either side of the superstructure and 4, 7.62 mini gun mounts quartering the superstructure which were hand operated, even in this guise, they still sported Thermal and optical magnifiers on them. Departing further from convention the front turrets, fore and aft in the double stack were the BAE systems Mk 110 mounts in 57mm. These had a staggering 220 round per minute rate of fire out to a maximum range of 17,000 meters. Having two different calibres in stacked mounts had not been done before and the arguments within the RAN and design bureau had been epic, right up until the first fire power demonstration had taken place off Shoalwater bay
The RANS CEFAR target acquisition and tracking systems plus independent fire control directors for each turret were also integrated with the ships high power millimetre wave fire tracking radar for counter battery fire in the shore bombardment role. They gave the Perth Flight 2 ships a much more layered defensive weapons set.
It was both the shore support role and engagement in the littoral that prompted the RAN to field the Modified Perth units; the 47% reduction in costs over the Hobart Class value, more than made up both the parliaments and defences departments mind on the ships. They were a gun platform, the Admiral of the RAN had commented at the time, up armoured and bristling with self defence systems, they are designed to close with the enemy and with fire and shock effect kill him, more so, with the islands and projected fights against smaller craft, they will still be dishing out pain to the likes DDG’s and FFG’s when they have run out of missiles or are full of holes, and that was the Perth’s other features.
The Commander stole another look back at the Adelaide, “ Lets drop revolutions for 30 knots Helm” he ordered and started over for the bridge surface radar plot.
She was armoured and with the addition of soft block reactive armour that could defeat RPG 4 rounds and small shaped charge missiles , even the penetration of all but the largest ASM’s was greatly reduced with the extensive utilisation of Kevlar and hardened steel throughout the ship.
And that was where she gained her weight, she was a brawler not just “designed to close with the enemy and kill him” although the Admiral pointed out during design that. “That’s one of the features she needs to be good at. But it needs to be able to take hits, close up on the shore line and defend the fleet against massed boat attacks or the likes” he’d gone on to say to the gathered group of engineers.
The final item to be addressed as part of here redesign was the gun turrets, nobody had really thought too much about them, save for their integration and normal operational requirements, but you could have heard a pin drop in the meeting when a Commander had asked.
“What’s been done to armour up the turrets on the gun mount” and it was an innocuous question that seemed quite reasonable to the commander it was followed by massed silence from the engineers and defence contractors.
It was stillness that the room rarely seen, it was just as quickly obliterated by a booming voice.
The admiral shot to his feet “What! Don’t fucking tell me we reengineered and up armoured all of the ship and nobody thought about the bloody gun turrets” screamed the Admiral, then continuing before anybody at the table could respond, though most had the good sense not too.
“ I want armour on the turrets and you had also better pay attention to traverse speed if you are bolting on more armour, lets also think about reactive blocks as well and manual operation. I want the ship to be able to fight, close, with no power if necessary….understand” he said, and then finished the Admiral spun around and motioned for his aid to follow as he stormed out of the meeting room. The engineers and contractors present all breathing a large sigh of relief that none had been singled out for the error.
The Commander could remember some of the design fights, but the most memorable event had been their first night ex shoot at Shoalwater bay and the admiral had been on board. Their target had been a captured and decommissioned cargo ship which the RAN had stacked with shipping containers filled with various materials plus some liquids. The aim being to assess the damage capabilities of the Perth to various armour fits on water and land targets.
The RAN had it seems a sense of the dramatic for the night selected was both a high tide but moonless, as Commander Herd would remember his dad saying , on night outs like this back home, “it was as black as a dogs guts’ and so it was here, it would prove a spectacular sight.
Shoalwater Bay Military Training area. RAN Range 6 months earlier
“Sir we have the Primary target locked up on all systems, range 5,000 meters, we have secondary targets at 3000 and 1000 meters respectively, recommend we engage the primary target with main batteries fore and aft Sir, then the 30 millimetre mounts and Mini’s to take out the two at 3000 and 1000 meters, request weapons free Sir” Called the Tactical Action Officer.
The commander was motionless on the Bridge as the Perth steam towards it target set at a steady 15 knots, the almost joy evident on his face in the dim glow of the blacked out bridge, grasping his binoculars the Commander walked over to the radar plot and took a quick glance before straightening up
“ Helm right full rudder, increase revolutions to maintain 15 knots, helm standby to reverse you rudder when you hit heading 297, I want to be broadside to the targets” he called, before a slight pause, the XO and persons on the Bridge stealing a quick glance at the Captain, waiting to see what command he would issue , they were all wrapped up in the moment.
“ Fire Control, don’t fuck this up, I want a full broadside for our watching visitors, Weapons Free ………. Fire as ya guns bear!” The Captain shouted with immense satisfaction.
It was a Command that he had loved and never thought in his wildest dreams he would realistically be able to issue, certainly not with conviction on any other ship with a pissy 5 inch mount forward or short of being teleported back in time to Lord Nelson and the battle of Trafalgar.
The Captain looked about the Bridge, the crew loved it, they were all professionals doing their jobs, but the satisfaction on their faces clearly evident, caught up in the moment too it was good for them, “they need to see what she is capable of and what might be sent back at us as well” he thought.
As the Perth ran into the target area they had passed to starboard of another vessel, the ship was a RAN vessel lying at anchor and acting as range controller, its air and surface search radars active, but its sides, bridge and almost any other section of the ship that was able to support a person were occupied, all looking out towards where the targets were…….waiting. HMAS Canberra, the RAN’s LHD had been decked out with seating across the central part of the ship, catering was underway and the PA system was quiet, the ship, now all blacked out waited…patiently, tense and expectant like everybody else.
Inside the Perth deep in the CIC area the weapons stations controllers, taught, primed and eagerly awaiting the Captains order hovered over their consoles.
“Fire as ya guns bear” created instant actions, fingers squeezed triggers, topside, likewise mini gun operators clad in ant flash gear but sporting PNG’s braced, then hearing weapons free call and the “Fire as ya guns bear” call from their Captain let loose Armageddon.
From the deck of the Canberra, to the mini cam drone hovering high behind HMAS Perth the effect was the same, heeling back upright after the full turn, the Perth came broadside to the Target set and unleashed hell upon the range. On the Bridge the sight was awe inspiring as almost all crew who were able to, were at the bridge windows.
The noise of the 65 Calibre guns firing in unison from the ship, punching out rounds at the rate of 20 per minute was overlaid with the fore and aft quick firing Mk 110, 57mm gun mounts and their 220 rounds per minute, their pump pum pum sound of 3.5 rounds per second adding volumes of noise, and flame. Tracer rounds screamed off across the water in rapid succession, intermingled with the smaller calibre weapons. The 25 millimetre mounts and mini guns especially with their one in five tracer looked like laser beams wandering back and forth, in reality, dispensing death across the flat black ocean onto the targets, rounds careening off into the darkness until they burn out having ricocheted, whilst in the background the first of the salvo’s from the big guns were exploding against the cargo ship.
Although this exercise was to validate the ships fire control coordination and test its ability to deliver volume fire, it was almost certainly a chance for the RAN to show off to the assembled dignitaries what they had invested in and nothing did that like a fire power demo.
Diesel drums filled with fuels began exploding as great gouts of water rocketed upwards from near misses, quick fire rounds on point detonation exploded all across the hull like bright rapid fire crackers, yellow, red and green flames blossoming in the darkness as hardened metal projectiles lanced through thin hull plating. The gunners poured it on, nonstop, down below decks armourers and loaders were working at their extreme rates, feeding the gun platforms ammunition as the mounts voraciously consumed the stocks of ammo that was delivered onto the targets.
Captain Herd watched from the closed up confines as the bridge and whole ship shuddered with the never-ending blasts from the guns, he could see the targets in the glow of flashes and fires and decided that the primary target was due to be Illuminated, remembering the discussion the previous week with the Admiral.
“ Rusty” as the Admiral like to call the Captain, “ You need to not only deliver the ships to program and demonstrate her power, but it needs’ an element of theatre about it as well, remember we will have every man and his bloody dog out there that can scab and bully a pass to see what she goes like….keep that in mind will you”.
The Captain had spent the next week mulling over the theatre issue and had finally come up with something he though would look rather spectacular, but also be functional.
“XO, lets designate mount 2 for Star burst shells, let’s have 6 rounds over the 70 degree arc as we practiced if you will” before turning back towards the wing of the Bridge, “ When you are ready XO”
It didn’t take long before the two shipping containers packed with a liquid mix of explosive filler detonated, the semi armour piercing rounds from the Perth’s 127mm mounts penetrated into the armoured hull breaking open the shipping containers and letting explosive filler out.
From the Perth and the other observation units it was an initial brilliant white flash with streamers of light arching up an out of the ship as ship was lifted up before splitting in two, broken in half before splashing back down an unheard roar emanating from the mounts and bridge crews at the sight, their sounds still drowned out by the continual thunderous roar of shells exploding. It didn’t take long before the blast wave, noise arrived, flashing across the water, booming against the ship whilst slapping all personnel with its immense force, before the shattering noise arrived, deafening and roaring , its arrival heralding the final destruction of the target Ship.
The XO’s hand flashed up to his head set,” Rounds on their way Captain, air burst in three, two one” Called the XO as the first of 6 large bright white flashing opened up in the heavens above the flaming wreckage of the cargo ship, rounds still barked out from the Perth’s broadsides , mini gun mounts were splashing spent casings across the deck as thousands of rounds continued to flash down range. All now illuminated in the mega white light of the floating star shells. Their watching audience were awe struck, sounds of disbelief emanating from the crowd.
“ CEASE FIRE , Check weapons safe” Called the Captain from the bridge his orders instantly carried via fibre optic to all commands on the vessel.
Quickly fingers were lifted off triggers as word was received in CIC and outside at the external mounts, all weapons ceased as the Perth emerged yet again from a white cloud of gun smoke, to her port side the fiercely burning cargo target ship blazed, backlighting the smaller targets that the 25 mm mounts and mini guns had lashed with lead. On the ship, gun mounts crackled as their barrels started to cool down, metal shrinking back slowly from it heated state as high explosive filler and massive compressed gases no longer exited their long barrels.
Had somebody cared to do the math, they would have been quite astonished, in the full 2 minutes in which the HMAS Perth had attacked the targets she had delivered an extraordinary amount of steel onto the target sets. The two smaller targets had received a combined 24 thousand rounds of 7.62mm ammunition from the two mini gun mounts, added to the targets was also the 25mm chain guns mounts, from the pair an staggering 800 rounds of high explosive and semi armour piercing had been shot off and that was before the 4 larger calibre guns were counted. The big BAE quick firing Mk 110’s had shot off their maximum sustained rate of fire for the two full minutes, punching our 440 rounds per turret, in total 880 rounds had impact on or near the cargo ship target. And the final calculation would need to take into account the 80, 127mm armour piercing and HE shells the 5 inch mounts fore and aft spat out, in all some 25,000 rounds were sent down range in 2 minutes of sheer destruction.
As the Perth put on speed to steam out of the range area the Captain walked out onto the bridge wing into the cool night air, the smell of cordite final beginning to dissipate from the bridge as she gathered speed,
“ Make revolutions for 30 knots Helm” Called Captain Herd , “let’s get the ship lit back up, running lights on and keep condition 1 throughout the ship, OX, and get the departments heads together for a debriefing in 20 shall we whilst we head for target area two and have Commander Ballinger report to me will you, I want to run over the attack plan for osprey 1” he called, as he then looked back out across the glistening ocean.
“That ought to keep the boffins and naysayers happy about her capability”, he thought to himself, not that the Captain was concerned, this had simply been a show exercise, a full week ago the Perth had demonstrated her true abilities, her four independent gun fire control directors operating each of her 4 main guns independently, the electro optical systems on the 25mm units being slaved to the mk110 mounts directors and the mini’s gun hot at targets as well. She could service 4 to 8 targets at once depending on their range and it was not something any other surface vessel could do. Better still, she could take hits and not have to worry about mere .50 calibres round penetrating the superstructure an causing damage or injuries. Most of her superstructure had 4 inches of armour plate, plus in some areas additional Cobham and others yet with reactive blocks, a first for any Naval vessel in the world. These had been placed on the facia of the gun mounts and astride other critical areas, she was a throwback of sorts to another time when armour plating allowed ships to stand almost toe to toe and deliver steel and lead volleys at each other only this time, the RAN was banking on the other team not having armour, the Perth was not interested in a fair fight and neither was her Captain. But the world had been watching her creation with great interest and so had the overhead sati lights. But they had not seen all her new goodies displayed for them, the Perth still had two new rather innovations to formally test in field conditions and one of them was a fundamental game changer in ASW, at least the Captain and the Admiral thought so.
Ord River Catchment, Western Australia.
The expansion project had been delivered on time and close to the initial budget, if you call half a billion dollars close, but now, at altitude flying over the system Raj Therbs could see the results
“ Its magnificent don’t you think” he said in his clipped British tones, underscoring his Eaton education, his secretary quickly looking back to him from her window seat before resuming her stare out the small windows at the lush velvet textured ground that was the expanded Ord river irrigation scheme.
“The biggest man mad irrigation project on the plant” she thought to herself, “on time on budget….. and fuck those pricks who said a woman could not get it done” Marlene said to herself, the satisfied grin clearly evident for anybody to see on the aircraft had they not all, like she had been, had their heads pressed up against the windows , marvelling at the manmade creation below them, stretching to the horizon.
“Yes …yes it is” She said, looking back at her boss, “it’s quite green down there , the channels and the patchwork colours, it looks like a quilt, quite magnificent really” she replied.
The ground spilled passed the windows of the G20 Gulfstream jet, which from anybody observing from the ground would have looked unusual, unusual in that the aircraft had been cutting slow lazy circle at high altitude over this part of the country for 2 hours now.
But Raj was not distressed, the jet was his and so was almost everything he could see down below except for the Ord river dam, he now owned not less than 3 million acres of the ‘Territory’ as the locals called it in WA and almost 50% was now irrigated. It had taken serious political lobbying in Canberra and patience, the Nationals had proved to be the major hurdle and the countries stupid foreign ownership laws, anarchistic, certainly something one might have expected from colonials and riff raff he had been heard to say on occasion, but an envelope here and there on a regular basis had solved that problem.
Raj looked over at his secretary, Miss Marlene Leech was really quite fetching had it not been for the fact his wife was 10 feet behind him shopping on line for some ridiculous outfit which he was sure would cost him thousands, he would have ravished her right here on the desk top. Raj’s mind was really starting to wander; slowly he’d started to picture tearing of her skirt, when Marlene looked back at him.
‘You prick’ she thought, she had a feeling she knew exactly what was wondering through his narrow skirt chasing min when she had looked at him and she was not pleased…..at all.
“How much water down we actually have access to under the new rights agreement, the Bankers have submitted some questions they would like answered Raj….Raj!” Her raised call out of his name brought him back to the present, he stuttered somewhat before answering, blushing like she had read his mind and the thought flashing through.
“Yessss my dear, I heard you, sorry for that, I was pondering some other issues’ he said, flicking his pen between his fingers as if he was trying to figure out some other issue before looking back up at his secretary,’ get a hold of Rajiv Singh have him collate the required data for the bankers” he said with a dismissive wave of the hand, his gold and diamond rings glimmering as they flashed through the bright sunlight, now streaming the windows of the Lear jet.
Raj walked back toward the cockpit door and stopped at mahogany hand crafted desk with the rather plush looking chair, spinning the chair around, he calmly sat down and turned back towards Miss Leech.
“How long before we reach Lahore?” he simply asked.
Miss Leech looked at her watch and did some quick calculations, “we will stop for fuel at KL and then continue on to Lahore, no more than 5 hours I would think, around 2pm our time”.
‘Good Good, thought Raj, the next stage of planning was crucial’ let’s see what these railway men really know” he thought.