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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