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”.

Part 4: RAAF BASE Curtain- and yes, RHINO is in it!

RAAF BASE CURTAIN Western Australia: 1600 hours 21/12/ 2020

RAAF Base Curtain was situated in the North west Corner of Western Australia in an area called “The Kimberley’s”, known for the Aboriginal land holders, magnificent ranges and the underlying brutality of the outback towards anybody who took it for granted. The Kimberley’s was also known for its weather, 5 months of the year the vast dry landscape was subject to tropical storms, the “wet” as the locals knew it. During these periods, roads and rivers were flooded making access or military operations extremely difficult, certainly anybody wanting to do sinister military work would not in their right mind plan for it to happen during the wet season.  And with the seasons closing arriving, the ADF like all other military was awakening to operations.

The RAAF Airbase had for years been a ‘READY’ base with barebones services, able to be activated at short notice into a fully-fledged operational RAAF base in 24 hours,  two north south runways and a car taker grouping of personnel was typically all that occupied the base year round, but all that had changed.

As the ADF upgraded its technology, systems and equipment to meet the growing Northern threat from China, the rapid expansion of surface and in particular subsurface combatants in the region, so too had the base changed, over the 10 years that the current Liberal government had been in office and the long Sitting PM Mr Turnbull the ADF had been the beneficiary of a doubling in the Defence budget in that time, with particular emphasis on drones and remote war fighting technology. This leap in technological operation utilisation has seen the ADF take a fourfold or multigenerational leap over its neighbours in the Pacific and made the operational liaison and intelligence sharing with its Project Light Blue colleagues, Britain and the US along with the  Defence agreement in the MPA ( Mutual Protection Act  ) with Singapore and Malaysia become a reality. The ADF was the lead partner in ‘Light Blue’, a RAN / DSTO initiated force multiplier and the benefits were only now becoming realised.

Some parts of the very advanced Blue Ring SOSUS underwater detection system were well know, its full capability and also its operationally lethal attachments were not and it seemed that was about to become public.

“ Sheeeit” said the watch corporal in a long drawn out tone in the control Tower, which in peace time acted as the operations centre, “ we have a scramble signal from Manta Ray Sir for a Kestrel and also a status update on the remaining birds Sir, ASuW through to Alert Cap units”

Jesus thought the young corporal, the evening was really starting to go to custard, it had been months since a Kestrel had been launched and that was at the height of the last standoff between China and the Vietnamese Navy, the latter of which had come off with a rather bloody nose and minus two ships, plus about 300 sailors lighter, all of which now were at the bottom of the South China sea creating new coral reefs. Before the confrontation had become the fracas that it was now being described, the RAN and the RAAF had watched quite closely and monitored what was taking place, if for no other reason than to learn the other side capabilities and it had proved to be a virtual data and capability gold mine for the ADF and its Allies. And some of the capabilities discovered had sent shock waves through the USN and RAN upper echelons.

It hadn’t taken long for things to get exciting at RAAF Curtin with the Tower operations Technician pushing the alert button and then placing a call to the base Commander,

“ Well get fucking too it, call the O Group in Ten, I want all staff at their alert stations in 15 and a full status on all birds by then as well ……………….and make sure we have availability of the Dreamers, I’ve a feeling we might need them.” Shouted the Lt Colonel Commanding RAAF Curtin clearly not pleased with the alert or the status of the base reporting..

RAAF ADGIES or Air defence Guards were saddling up in the Modified Huawei ground assault Vehicles, they had the mod 2 version which was re-armoured, the normal ballistic steel panels now replaced with Kevlar composite units and shedding a whole 600 kilos off the crafts  waste line. The Huawei’s pronounced Huey like the old gunship helicopters accelerated like a sports car, just that they had 50 calibre and automatic grenade launchers mounted front and rear, some even spotting improved Javelins in twin pack launchers as well.

As the Adgies sped past the ballistic shelters of the flight line, crews were swarming over various aircraft, Kestrel ASW drones, capable of 6 hours endurance with two Archer high speed ASW torpedoes on board, nominal; range of 100 kilometres were being worked on, safety tags for arming pins being checked and pins removed. A big C5 Galaxy was waiting to take off, sitting patiently as the RAAF’s first of three AC130M gunships lumbered down Curtains main north south runway.

 

Right next door to these sleek looking units were the RAAF’s latest drone units, the Dreamers, essentially a highly modified Kestrel turbojet powered drone, save for the twin turbojets; it’s very high subsonic transit speeds, full stealth design and bulging weapons bay clearly evident

. The Dreamers were all weather capable with some serious self-protection and initiating defensive countermeasures computer programming behind it. Designed from the outset to spoof or draw away multiple ASM’s from the fleet, the unit was quickly picked up by the RAAF. Jamming pods on board, radar reflectors, IR, HF, VHF, UHF and ELF jammers and IR decoys, all deployable as mini drones the size of a saucepan lid. The RAAF had never operated all the Dreamers countermeasures at once except for two live tests over the missile range at Woomera in South Australia, mainly to keep the full capability of the dreamer’s secret. But when they did, they shut down all radio transmissions for 40 kilometres, computers, radar systems and even the RAAF’s AEWC Wedge tail radar aircraft had trouble with their electronics, the dreamers worked a treat and were a serious capability enhancer for the ADF.

Each Dreamer carried 32 individual units and when set loose on a land or sea target would result in radar clutter and missile strike misses the likes have never before been seen. It was during the initial testing phase, that one of the technicians noted the incoming missiles were behaving like they were in a dream with all the countermeasures overloading their tiny processors and so, the Dreamer attack drone was born.

The RAAF like all services was competitive and when the opportunity presented itself to test the Dreamers against a US Carrier battle group exercising with the ADF, they jumped at the chance and the result,  3 dreamers shut down or confused over half the CBG and the wash up suggested that the Carrier and her major escorts would be at the bottom of the Indian Ocean and getting close to it. Washington went ape shit and it didn’t take long before Darpra and the DSTO were swapping specifications…….. it was followed by an order for 500 units from the ADF, the yanks were impressed!

It was just a pity the F35 was not such a success, 100m meters down from the drone revetments was the main beasts of RAAF Curtin, 2 full squadrons of JSF F-35 attack planes were able to be housed here, today there was just 7, that’s all of the units single full squadron the was mission serviceable at present, the rest were bent, or called unserviceable, but if you were a crew chief, they were tits up useless.

Flight Line RAAF Curtain:

Strolling down the flight line surveying the aircraft was Master Crew Chief David Sphinx, not an overly tall man, but at 120 kilos with his 6 ft. height he was not to be trifled with, what many might call a front rower in rugby terms. Scanning the line The Master Chief shook his head, Jesus” he thought,

“ If only the brass had listened to the technicians early, we wouldn’t be in this fkn mess

What the  chief was referring to was the Joint Strike Fighter and is subsequent issues, the largest of which was wholesale cancellation of orders, post a very brief but brutal encounter with some borrowed flankers at REDFLAG exercises in Nevada. The scuttlebutt initially coming out was simply that the Flanker aggressors had scored some kills against the F35’s, both the STOL and VTOL versions, but the release of gun tape footage and audio onto the net from various aircraft involved broke the issue wide open.  The F35 was a pig in anything but BVR engagements.

Congress went nuts, the coalition of partners purchasing the F35 went just as nuts and the shares for   Lockheed Martin building the F35 went down quicker than Bill Clintons “ we did not have sexual relations friend” , whilst the emails  demanding answers and a increasing numbers of cancellations started piling up in e/mail IN boxes. Whilst this was taking place senior commanders inside the Pentagon and across the globe in the partner countries were scrambling to find out just exactly what took place.

What had happened? A small number of  SU-35S Flankers had been acquired to perform the adversary roles and the US pilots trained in their use. It was suspected that the units had come from Malaysia but it was not confirmed. They were gen 4.5 units , with Thrust vectoring, multimode radar and stealth enhancements  and they had achieved a 2 to 1 kill ratio against the F35 in nearly all aspects of the flight envelope, except for BVR engagements when the F35 was clean or stealthy with NO external missiles………. and it went downhill from there.

 

The chief stopped at the second row of shelters, these like the ones housing the F35’s were not designed just to keep bombs off the aircraft and contain a miss hap to one parking revetment, they also had IR and Visual overhead cover, plus they kept the boiling  Western Australian sun of the airframes. But these hangars were twice as big as they ones beside them, sitting inside the shadowed hangers was a large procession of dark slightly familiar airframes for the casual observer. The actual number here was 24, but Australian now fielded 4 full squadrons of the them, they were classified as F111’s and these were the newest ‘S’ model  or ‘super pig’.

“Babe” thought the chief as he strode up to the First F111S-

“aint you  a sexy piece of kit” he said ,as he slowly and graceful swept his hand across the modified nose cone of the aircraft.

“Hey Chief” Someone called out from behind him as he heard boots running up from the other side of the aircraft.

As David spun around to the front of the aircraft and watched as first the boots and then flight suit appeared between the ground and the airframe, then, as the now puffing aviator appeared from around the nose he was not surprised the squadrons Chief pilot, Lt Colonel Rodger Rhino Ross, puffing somewhat as he filled out the…..neat fitting flight suit stopped doubled over. Rhino’s hand was waving kind of wildly at the Chief and he figured he knew what he wanted whilst he was sucking in great lungful’s of air.

It took about 20 seconds, but Rhino righted himself, now composed but with kind of puffy flushed red cheeks he spoke with the chief.

“Chief, we have an alert warning from Holt, they want a Kestrel ASAP for the Lombok straight and also a status on all other birds here at the base, which I would gather includes piloted aircraft as well! And…. The CO has issued a full base Alert”

The Chief had watched all the Adgies and aircraft mechanics disperse and start swarming over the drones, he’d not given much thought to the bases piloted aircraft up until this point. Reaching down for his radio he called back to base ops.

“ Base Op’s this is Spanner 1, is the duty officer present , over” releasing the hand piece the chief looked at Rhino.

“ well Rhino, get ya fkn arse in the Cockpit man….Jesus, where is your Nav?” he asked, just as he heard the Huawei Assault Vehicle tyres squeak to a halt at the front of the aircraft and the Pigs Navigator, Major Carley Simone bailed out of the backseat before the Huawei shot across to the next aircraft shelter disgorging its next set of aircrew.

The F111 S or Super Pig was a direct result of the F35’s technical and capability failures and it  had come at a cost. Whilst the RAAF decided to reduce its total order of F35’s, deciding that they would try and utilise the Lightening as a fighter only and pair it with less capable aircraft, it still left the RAAF short. The legacy Hornets had long since been retired and the Super Hornets were being left to do most of the work, the resultant airframe hours skyrocketing and placing some tough decisions on the RAAF.

Unfortunately the issues with the F35 were not just Australian, it was the whole consortium who bought into the F35 debacle that were now trying to secure other aircraft as fast as possible to fill the capability gap and extend other airframes life, and this….very quickly created an aircraft shortfall with plane prices shooting through the roof almost overnight.

The RAAF internally starting looking at options and what force mixes they could use, one Commander suggested they dust off the F111 upgrade program and see if they could secure birds from the bone yard in the US, after all the Commander said, we have the technical expertise here, Qantas can support the units and we look at securing back the staff / support personnel. The Pig will cut back on Hornet time and if we do the full upgrade we will secure some very unique additional benefits.

The Brass were not convinced, but the PM got wind of it and requested a full briefing from the RAAF and its proposer, bending a lot of senior noses out of shape in the process. The briefing had been interesting, at the end of the session the PM it was said, had stood up and looked straight at the Chief of the Defence force and said “ Make it happen” no buts, no histrionics, just get it done, and so the RAAF and the DSTO embarked on what all said was the most bizarre , tax payer funded money wasting exercise that the ADF had ever partaken in…… but they were wrong or so the chief thought.

The chief continued his walk around the aircraft’s topping here and there to more closely inspect it, wings, leading edge slats, landing gear and final now having checked all the normal operational equipment he was ready for the weapons check, looking up at the cockpit the chief could see both the Pilot and Nav were in their seat.

“Ready for weapons check Rhino, confirm Radar and pods are in standby please “ the chief called.

He figured that the pair were still busy getting their own collective shit sorted out, but not to bust protocol and commence the weapons stations checks the chief allowed himself another look back over his plane as he thought of it, mentally remembering just how hard it was to get this bird into service and what radical changes had been made to the base G model pig to bring her up to this…..one of the slipperiest aircraft available that could deliver some serious load of steel on target. And that was the end game wasn’t it.

From where he was now standing at the front left side of the aircraft, nearly all the significant mods were visible, although she had received serious internal upgrades, the performance enhancing ones could be seen by the trained eye, all over the airframe…and even that was partly new as well.

The F111’s was a super cruising low level penetrator now with the RCS of a large bird, capable of carrying  12 AMRAAMS, or a similar number of SSM’s, she was lengthened, had thrust vectoring nozzles with composite Kevlar / carbon fibre wings, larger fuel tanks, upgrades electronics now all fully digitised, link 17, AESA radar with full TFR, FLIR and IRSTS and helmet mounted queuing. In all, she could do everything the JSF could and couldn’t, plus do it farther away and faster.

 

 

 

 

Part 3. Same time line As Celebes Sea- HOLT com’s Station WA Coast.

 

 

The Harold Holt coms station  Northern Western Australia

 

To the outsider they would not have a clue, the large white domes for radar and satellite tracking dishes, massive antenna farms for the VLF communications systems were like so many other Military installations. The Holt installation however was vastly different, designed from the outset to talk with to submarines operating deep across the western pacific and Indian oceans and any surface vessel they might decide to speak with, DSD, RAN, USN or other partners as they determined was required. What gave the installation its real sense of difference was the squat box like vehicles parked around the site at selected intervals…almost like short semi-trailers but tilted somewhat. The Holt station carried its own very capable contingent of Surface to Missile Batteries, Patriot Block 4 units capable of intercepting a ballistic inbound.

To the casual observer It was quiet, inside the long stark rectangular facilities however, it was far from this, the facilities newest system and final leg of the “Blue ring” SOSUS system having finally come on line. Project light blue was now complete.

The RAN, along with Singapore and Malaysia 7 years before hand in secret founded “ Project -Light Blue ‘ which was a project ran by the  Australian Defence Signals Directorate, loosely attached also to the CNO for the RAN. Project ‘Light Blue’ was funded unlike any other entity in the ADF in that the funds came from a foreign powers, in this case both Singapore and Malaysia and from within special branches of their respective defence forces and some black funding from ASIO.

Light Blue was not large, its total staffing numbering no more than 400 personnel, it land holdings however were large and the tech they employed was cutting edge signal processing, microprocessors and algorithms.  But all this tech was housed inside existing facilities making its creation and concealment that much easier for the users.

“Sir I have a new transient, bearing 265, range 2400 meters and decreasing on array 1 Sir” Called the young watch officer sitting at his brand new Blue Ring console.

The “ Sneaker Room “ as it was called, was effectively the master control and tracking room for the “Blue ring system” operation with a duplicate based in Singapore as well, this one here at the Holt centre in remote Western Australia was the master control room. Links Direct to the ADF HQ in Canberra and their Nation states services in Malaysia and Singapore as well, plus the US and Great Britain gave them clout, it also gave them exchange of data and that data….. Was anything that moved which was not a fish in or on the oceans in the entire Indian Ocean and Western Pacific.

The CSIRO and the ADF’s DSTO had come up with the new array system which had prompted Project light blue, or as they knew it, turning Dark ocean areas into light blue and making tracking subs that much easier. And hence, the system was called Blue Ring after the Octopus and its many arms, whose bite was extremely poisonous.

The Blue Ring system, now that it was fully implemented to its current funding parameters had no less than 11 arrays strung out in various locations across the western pacific and the Indian Ocean. These arrays, we like no others, certainly 2 generations or better than the units which were being operated in the GIUK Gap SOSUS systems tracking soviet subs. Apart from the hydrophones and signal processing technology which everybody knew had advanced, the Blue Ring arrays differed in that the hydrophones were at variable depths and this could be changed.

As each section of cable was fed out and the hydrophone packages were attached, a present depth pressure switch reading was input into the hydrophones programming and this was based on known water temperatures for set depths in the area. Once the array had been laid and was activated, the various box like structures attached to it opened and a small helium bladder filled, pulling the hydrophone up and out to its set depth. As soon as the microprocessor detected the required depth, the clamps were applied and the cable ceased spooling out of the head unit. The on-board microprocessor then setting up the hydrophone, taking a water temperature reading before fully self-testing and reporting into the array controller. It was the variable depths of the hydrophones that enabled the Blue Ring system to perform so brilliantly, having sensors both above and below the various thermocline layers made tracking subs far easier than anyone had thought. But the system still had one more benefit, its construction was modular, almost plug and play which allowed the ‘Box  Fish’  ASW torpedo system to be attached and operated from the same console once the software was upgraded and the hardware was placed on the seabed floor.

Control Room

The Major on duty from the Australian Army, Major Brian Bourke, stood up and stretched, then, straightening his Oz Cam jumper down over his bunny rabbit pattern camo pants headed for the operators console. The Australian Army had returned back to its Hearts and Rabbits style camouflage pattern after dabbling in the US system, the ADF finding geographically the previous pattern as being more effective and so did the Major and his many colleagues.

“ Let’s get a status on the box fish mounts and I want to know the status of the Kestrels at Curtain” he said as he saddled up to the watch officer, looking up at the big screen he placed his hand on the young operators shoulder,

“Ok Son, let’s have a lookie here at what’s going on:” the Major Paused for a couple of seconds before standing up”, what do you think” he enquired lightly to the watch officer as he looked around at the other operators taking in all that was happening and looking for signs of issues.

The watch officer as he was called was a young civilian called Mark Ballinger, still in his mid-twenties having recently graduated from Deakin University and now within the civilian arm of Defence for almost 2 years.

“Sir We have the target at the extreme end of array one and also on the sensors of Stone Fish unit 8, that’s giving us our triangulation, I make his depth “ It was a he now the target  the watch officer was describing ,” His depth is 120 meters Sir and descending into the trough, he’s not long exited the Lombok Straight Sir “.

Major Bourke was the study of concentration, the target  which was almost certainly a SSK diesel electric submarine of some origin, the young officer not yet having enough data to classify the type, had just appeared on their scopes.

That’s the bloody problem with the new SSK’s’ thought the Major, ‘Too quiet nowadays, but not for Blue Ring” he thought, as a thin barely perceptible smile crept across his face.

The Major stood slightly and placed his hand on the back of the operators high backed chair and looking up at the systems status board and myriad of status screen for the ADF.

Watch officer, let’s get RAAF Curtain on line, I want a Kestrel up and ingressing to the target area of the new contact, let’s designate him as Sierra 1, I want the status of their other birds as well and I’m not seeing their Base ready status on the board” the major said as he blew out an exasperated lungful of air before continuing.

“, Somebody has fucked up and it needs fixing now, let’s move people!” Said Mark in an almost shooting voice as he continued to stare at the now animated control room staff.