|[Transcript: Attachment B, included in 'Defence Internal Review Of Intelligence Related To SIEVX' submitted to the CMI Committee, 4 July 2002]
18-20 Oct 01
1. Previous Testimony. As detailed by Naval Component Commander Australian Theatre, RADM Smith, in his 4 Apr 02 testimony to the Senate Select Committee into a Certain Maritime Incident, when SIEV X reportedly foundered our nearest ship was at least 150 miles away. We also know from RADM Bonser's testimony that: 'Coastwatch was not flying within 1,000 miles of the area where that particular vessel (SIEV X) was allegedly proceeding' however that he understood RAAF P-3 surveillance 'was about 30 miles south of Indonesian territory.'
2. Surveillance Areas. During this period of Operation RELEX there were three promulgated patrol routes and maritime patrol areas - North of Christmas Island; South of Bali, Lombok, and Sumbawa Islands; and Approaches to the Kimberley region off the WA Coast. These areas had been defined in a 12 Oct 01 message titled 'Change 1 to the Air Surveillance Conops' (Concept of Operations). The area north of Christmas Island was at the time operationally referred to as area 'Charlie' and was divided into four quadrants as detailed at Annex A. (PageA-1). These areas represent a broad definition of the surveillance area primarily for operational planning purposes. The northern boundary (dotted blue line) was further refined by operational instructions not to fly within 24nm of the Indonesian archipelagic baseline. This operational restriction was in place to provide a buffer zone around the Indonesian 12nm territorial limit to ensure that the aircraft did not inadvertently infringe Indonesia's sovereign rights.
3. It is important to note that in the annex to which the following three paragraphs refer times have been standardised to Timezone Golf (G) used in the Christmas Island region. This has been done [to] avoid any confusion which could result due to the differences in time zones between Learmonth, WA (zone Hotel (H), Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) + 8 hours) and the Christmas Is region (zone G, GMT + 7 hours). The paragraphs that follow also include time expressed in GMT as used in military operations.
4. Surveillance Flights. Over the period 18 and 20 Oct 01, the period during which SIEV X was reported to be at sea and (later) that survivors were reportedly rescued, there were four RAAF P3C flights in area Charlie. Details of these flights and the flights on the three subsequent days are as follows:
a. 18 Oct 01 Patrol Flight. This flight was a scheduled surveillance patrol flight which departed Learmonth at 0755H (2355GMT 17 Oct 01), arrived on task at the patrol area at 0935G (0235 GMT), completed its surveillance task at 1411G (0711 GMT), and returned to Learmonth at 1752H (0952 GMT). The aircraft spent a total time of 4 hours 31 minutes conducting surveillance in the area. The approximate path of this flight is detailed at Annex A (page A-2). The aircrew reported that the cloud base of six eighths of Strato Cumulus cloud was at 2000 feet and visibility from the aircraft was eight nautical miles (nm). During this particular flight the aircrew observed that due to the prevailing atmospheric conditions, the aircraft's APS115 radar was detecting wooden fishing vessels of 12-20m in length at about 12nm thus dictating a search separation of 24nm (Annex A page A-2). They also observed that for this particular flight the Infra-Red Detection System (IRDS) was achieving detection ranges of 1nm against the same type of surface contacts. The aircrew assessed that the flight achieved 100% surveillance of area Charlie and 25 contacts were located. A position plot of these contacts is detailed at Annex A (Page A-3). A separate 'expanded view' to better discriminate congested surface contacts in the northern corner of the search area is shown at Annex A (page A-4). Of these contacts 21 were visually identified: two as Merchant Vessels and 19 as fishing vessels. Two of these were multiple vessels in close proximity thus only 17 appear on the position plot. A further four were detected on radar but were unable to be visually identified as they were outside of the search area and within 24nm of the Indonesian archipelagic baseline, a region of airspace that the aircraft was operationally prohibited from entering.
b. 19 Oct 01 Morning Patrol Flight. This flight was also a scheduled surveillance patrol flight and occurred on the morning of 19 Oct 01. It departed Learmonth at 0348H (1948 GMT 18 Oct 01) arrived on task at 0530G (2230 GMT 18 Oct o1), completed its surveillance task at 1044G (0344 GMT), and returned to Learmonth at 1428H (0628 GMT). The aircraft spent a total time of 5 hours 14 minutes conducting surveillance in the area. The approximate path of this flight is detailed at Annex A (Page A-5). The aircrew reported that in the northwestern region of the search area the cloud base of six eighths of Strata Cumulus cloud was at 1000 feet but that visibility from aircraft was a maximum of five nm due to intermittent rain. During this particular flight the aircrew reported that the atmospheric conditions in the northern area Charlie degraded radar and IRDS performance. The aircrew flew 20nm sweep and reported 100% surveillance of area Charlie with a 75% probability of detection in the northern areas and an 85% probability of detection in the southern areas. They also observed that for this particular flight the IRDS was achieving identification ranges of 1.5nm against smaller surface contacts. Early in the patrol the aircraft located identified a SIEV, later designated as SIEV 6, which was reported to HMAS ARUNTA for interception and further investigation. During the patrol a further 37 contacts were located. An accurate position plot of these contacts is detailed at the Annex (Page A-6). Of these contacts eight were visually identified as Merchant Vessels and 22 visually identified as fishing vessels (five of these were multiple vessels in close proximity thus only 11 contact positions appear on the position plot). A further seven contacts were detected on radar but not identified. (One of these contacts had multiple vessels in close proximity thus only five radar contact positions appear on the position plot). Two of these radar contacts were not investigated as they were to the east of and outside the search area. The remaining three were unable to be visually identified as they were outside of the search area and within 24nm of the Indonesian baseline.
c. 19 Oct 01 Afternoon/Evening Patrol Flight. An additional unplanned flight occurred on the late afternoon/evening of the 19 Oct 01. This flight was undertaken in order to maintain the aerial surveillance effort during a period of unserviceability of HMAS ARUNTA's helicopter. This flight departed Learmonth at 1505H (0705 GMT) arrived on task at 1644G (0944 GMT), completed its surveillance task at 2115G (1415 GMT), and returned to Learmonth at 0052H on 20 Oct 01 (1652 GMT). The aircraft spent a total time of 4 hours 31 minutes conducting surveillance in the area. The approximate path of this flight is detailed at Annex A (Page A-7). The aircrew reported that the cloud base of five eighths of Strato-Cumulus cloud was at 3500 feet but that visibility from the aircraft was six nm due to haze. During this particular flight the aircrew observed that the aircraft's APS115 radar was detecting wooden fishing vessels of 12-20m at about 12nm (reducing to seven nm in regions of poor weather) thus dictating a search track separation of 24nm. They also observed that for this particular flight the IRDS was achieving detection ranges of two nm against the same type of surface contacts. The aircrew reported poor weather in the south-western quadrant of area Charlie and assessed that the flight achieved 95% search of this quadrant except for a 30nm X10nm impenetrable storm as shown at Annex A, Page A-7. The storm required the aircraft to manoeuvre around it for flight safety reasons and the flight path shown at Annex A, Page A-7 to represent its avoidance of the bad weather is indicative only. After avoiding the weather in the north the flight achieved a further 95% search of the south-eastern quadrant of area Charlie prior to reaching its limit of endurance (retaining sufficient fuel to return safely to base). This patrol flight detected eight contacts. An accurate position plot of these contacts is detailed at the annex (Page A-8). Of these contacts six were visually identified as fishing vessels and two were detected on radar but were unable to be visually identified. One of the radar contacts, although close to other visually identified fishing vessels, wsa outside of the search area thus its visual identification was not pursued. The other radar contact was in the north-western quadrant however due to the poor weather and fuel considerations the aircraft was not able to reach a position from which this contact could be visually identified. This flight was notable in that the weather was generally poor and the aircrew spent considerable time avoiding storms, particularly in the western quadrant. The need to conduct weather avoidance manoeuvres led to the aircraft reaching it's limit of endurance before completing patrol of its designated area.
d. 20 Oct 01. A planned flight was conducted on the morning of the 20 Oct 01. The aircraft departed Learmonth at 0400H (2000 GMT), was on task in area Charlie at 0535G (2235 GMT), off task at 1046G (0346 GMT) and returned to Learmonth at 1433H (0633 GMT). The aircraft spent a total time of 5 hours 11 minutes conducting surveillance in the area as shown [in] annex A-9. The aircraft achieved 100% coverage of the south-west and north-west sectors, 90% of north-east and 45% of south-east. 21 contacts were visually identified with 18 being fishing boats and 3 Merchant Vessels. The positions of these contacts are depicted at the annex pages A-10 to A-12. Two radar contacts could not be identified because they were inside 24nm of the Indonesian baseline. A further two radar contacts were made late in the flight and were not visually identified due to shortage of fuel.
e. 21, 22 and 23 Oct 01. The surveillance pattern was continued on each day on 21, 22 and 23 Oct 01. Details of the patterns flown and contacts made are not included as these flights are well removed from the reported time of the sinking of SIEV X and the rescue of the survivors. On 21 Oct 01 the flight was on task in area Charlie at 1250G (0550 GMT) and off task at 1724G (1024 GMT). On 22 Oct 01 the flight was on task in area Charlie at 0628G (2328 GMT) and off task at 1125G (0425 GMT. On 23 Oct 01 the flight was on task at approximately 1225G (0525 GMT) and off task at approximately 1744G (1044 GMT).