AAR: The Empire Strikes Back
By Paul Bridge
"I can smell'em", said Commander Pettigrew. "I can just smell skunks in those straits". The Queen had been attacked and our orders were to have the HMAS Melbourne and group attack the base at Hasanuddin. The only way to do this was for us to close the distance to the base. This meant that we had to travel through the Indonesian islands in order to close the range so that our Sea Venom could reach the target. Whether or not Cmdr. Pettigrew really could smell submarines was now immaterial. Orders were orders.
Orders were also issued to the Eagle TG to make best speed towards the bases in the Western part of Indonesia. I allowed the TG commander to plot a course that might allow him to avoid the Soviet spy trawler that appeared to be in his direct path and decided to hold back my long range bombers from any raids until all were available. I wanted a decisive blow to overwhelm any air defences.
The Gannets from HMAS Melbourne investigated the unknown contacts in their vicinity and discovered 2 Komar patrol boats that quickly opened fire on her. She issued a sitrep, called for reinforcements, and proceeded to attack. A full salvo of her rockets managed to damage but not sink one of the boats. The other Gannet on patrol also located a P6 gunboat which opened fire on her. She returned fire with rockets and killed her with only 8 of them. She immediately found and killed another with her remaining rockets. For her 2 victories, the pilot would be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and a Mention in Despatches.
Six Sea Venom arrived over the two Komar boats and proceeded to attack with guns and rockets. Even after suffering what appeared to be a tremendous number of hits, both boats continued to cruise at 15kts. Definitely, something stronger would be needed.
Meanwhile, the Shackleton on patrol in the centre of the Area of Operations [AO] identified a 'neutral' task group of Russian vessels. While conducting her reconnaissance, she detected a lone air contact that turned out to be a Shackleton. Well, diamond cut diamond. The more aggressive members of her crew wanted to investigate and possibly engage their mirror image if it turned out to be hostile. However, the pilot reminded everyone of their primary mission, reconnaissance. Instead, she called for assistance from two distant MirageIII loitering on Combat Air Patrol [CAP]. Interceptor radar was detected so even if they did not catch the Shackleton, their mission might not be wasted. They could still try to kill the interceptors if they proved hostile.
A Neptune found a TG off of Sumatra centred on the Mod Skory-class KRI Brawidjaja. Lacking any any ASuW weaponry herself, she directed the SS Oberon to intercept. An Indonesian fighter plane was in the area so she quickly retired to quieter waters.
The Mirage arrived and destroyed both the Shackleton and a MiG. Elsewheres, a Neptune on patrol finished off the damaged Komar craft with 8 rockets each. The Eagle group was cautiously attempting to manoeuvre between the Russian Spy trawlers in an attempt to remain undetected while she made her approach to attack the airfields.
Two more Komar were detected north of SS Andrew. Their destruction was assigned to the bombers at RAAF Darwin. A nosy Catalina PBY started snooping around the vicinity of HMAS Melbourne. Three pairs of Sabres on CAP tried to kill her with no luck. I also launched my Sea Venom cum interceptors with no luck. Only when she walked into the AAA envelope of the HMAS Arunta was she finally blotted from the sky. Hopefully, before she was able to send off a position report. Since the Sea Venom still had their bomb loads, they were re-directed to kill the Komar missile boats.
Luck was not with the CTF Melbourne this day. Electronic Support Measures [ESM] reported multiple contacts from Badger aircraft. The group sounded general quarters and prepared for Air Action West! The Carrier and her replenishment vessel turned off their radar and hoped that the escorts would bear the brunt of air strike. Her defending Sea Venom required an additional 40 minutes before being ready for flight. This was time that they were not going to get.
As the Melbourne prepared to defend herself, RAAF Darwin reported incoming aircraft! Badger radar and jamming had been detected just 40 miles from the base. The cheeky devils had decided to raid Australia itself! Bloodhound SAMs immediately knocked one of the raiders out of the sky. A second salvo exterminated the surviving Badger bomber. If the Indonesians were this daring, they might also try to bomb my other bases. I immediately ordered my RAF bombers to launch.
HMS Andrew was at periscope depth and able to report Badgers almost directly overflying her position. The Melbourne watched helplessly as the bombers approached. Two Sabres, at the limits of their endurance, managed to intercept and kill one of the bombers but one of them was also shot down by the Badgers' tail guns! The surviving bombers launched their missiles. HMAS Perth engaged with her Tartar missiles and did reasonably well; bringing down 3 of the missiles. However, close would not be good enough today. The lone missile continued tracking and hit HMAS Vampire. The thousand pound warhead was more than enough to ensure that there would be no need to search for survivors. A second flight of Badgers was intercepted by SeaVenom.
As my bombers were reaching out from RAAF Darwin, they detected more Badger emissions. The Mirage pilots were ecstatic. No only would they be allowed to Air-to-Mud action, but the gods were presenting them with these fat lumbering bombers as an appetizer. They closed on the bombers and brought both of them down with a combination of gunner and missiles before continuing on to their assigned target at Hasnuddin.
My strike forces were being very cagy. With their phenomenal range, I elected to take circuitous routes. I would be knocking on many back doors this day. However, I gravely mis-calculated! As my strikers were going around the anticipated CAPs, my Canberra units all had to Return To Base. A collective, "Agggghhh", was heard over the radio frequencies. What an embarassment to run out of gas. I decided to press onwards with my Vulcan bombers. Meanwhile, SS Oberon had crept into the midst of 3 ships. She selected 2 torpedoes for each target and sent them all to the bottom. Only one required servicing from a second round of torpedoes.
The Vulcans started to climb as they neared Adisumarmo. They had detected Badger-type emissions in the vicinity and thus inferred that the Badgers were operating from this base. To spare CTF Melbourne from future attacks, this base would be struck first. The bombers levelled off at 20,000 ft and made their attack run. Sufficient ordnance was allocated to crush all of the aircraft facilities. Once the base was no longer airworthy, the bombers turned towards Iswahjudi and increased speed. Their presence was known and they hoped to release the remainder of their ordnance before hastening to escape.
The Vulcans made their attack runs at full speed and also managed to totally smash the base. Unfortunately, just as they were completing their bomb runs, a flight of interceptors cleared the runways and smote five of the six planes from the sky. Mirage bombers from RAAF Darwin visited Hasnuddin at the same time and destroyed all of her aircraft handling facilities. The strikes were a complete, but costly, success story. Unfortunately, victory had not been awarded. There would be need for a second strike as some facilities were still operational at A. Salah and Adisucipto air bases.
The re-arming period was largely uneventful. A submarine was detected near the Eagle group and she launched a torpedo that missed. She was set upon by four very angry helo crews and sunk from repeated torpedo hits.
Once re-armed, the bombers once again took off to complete the destruction of the Indonesian air forces. No opposition beyond some desultory AAA fire was encountered and the two surviving bases were put out of commission. Victory was awarded as the bombers returned to base.
Another fine scenario. Thanks for sharing it.
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