PART 6: Celebes Sea & USS Pasadena SSN – 752



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”    




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.

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