SIEV-X surveillance
By Matt Brown

(extracted from: Margo Kingston's Web Diary 4 July 2002 )

This will form the basis of a new submission from Defence to the Committee which we hope will correct a lot of the 'assumptions' relating to surveillance.

They are in addition to the declassified summary of intelligence which will be provided to the Committee.

The bottom line is that we are looking for all illegal vessels entering our surveillance zone.

SLIDE A-1 (MAP 1 in Webdiary maps archive)

Shows the full "Charlie" surveillance zone relevant to this issue. There were two other aerial surveillance zones used to capture other routes to mainland. PLEASE NOTE - the blue line is the 24nm zone where Orions did not fly. You will note the Charlie zone line crosses it in some places - this is only because the map they've drawn connects coordinates with straight lines (it can't draw curved lines), so it's a technical glitch. The planes would not fly beyond the blue line - the first 12nm is sovereign Indonesian territory, the second 12nm is a "contiguous zone" recognised under UNCLOS (the International Convention on the Law of the Sea). While I'm not sure if Indonesia actually claims this zone, Australia, as a signatory of UNCLOS, recognises it. It is also primarily used as a 'buffer' to ensure our planes don't fly into the more important 12nm sovereign area.

The surveillance zone is approx 34,600 square nautical miles.

The times expressed on these maps are local times in the Charlie surveillance zone.

Defence advises that there was one full surveillance flight flown each today [sic] - the times of which varied from day to day. I can explain this once you've looked at the maps.

They had to fly approx 2 hours 40 minutes from the mainland before they entered the zone. They would then spend 4 to 5 hours covering the zone (dependent on weather and level of activity) before returning to the mainland.

It was standard for them to start their fly patterns from the south and work their way north before departing. I can explain that too.

Importantly, Defence advises that all radar contacts on the 18th and 19th scheduled daily flights were visually identified.

The flight patterns on the maps are indicative only - they show the general pattern followed. The distance between flight tracks would depend on weather and atmospherics and how they impacted on radar range. We can talk about that too.

SLIDE A-2 (MAP 2 - Flight path, the morning of October 18, the day SIEV-X departed Indonesia)

Gives the general pattern of surveillance flown that day.

Flight entered at 0935 and left 1411.

The aircrew assessed that the flight achieved 100 percent surveillance of area Charlie and 25 contacts were located.

Slide A-3 (MAP 3) gives these contacts. [SLIDE A-4 gives an expanded view of the North West sector]

21 were visually identified - 2 as merchant vessels and 19 as fishing vessels. (Two of the contacts were multiple fishing vessels so you want [sic] see 25 dots on the map.) The other four were detected within the 24nm Indonesian zone so were therefore not visually identified.

SLIDE A-5 (MAP 5, flight path on the morning of October 19, the day SIEV-X sunk)

Shows the flight pattern for the scheduled flight of Oct 19.

Entered zone at 0530 and left 1044 - 5 hours 14 minutes in the zone.

You will note it detected SIEV 6 in the southern zone. ([Note added by] Margo [Kingston]: Intelligence reported to the PM's people smuggling task force on October 18 says two boats left Indonesia that day - SIEV-6 and SIEV-X.)

Why hadn't SIEV 6 been picked up further north? This comes back to staggering the times of the daily surveillance flight.

It is possible that SIEVs can enter the northern zone after the daily surveillance flight. The reasons the flights are at different times is if you miss them on one day in the north, you can still spot them the next day in the south before they reach Christmas Island. You simply can't have 24 hour a day aerial surveillance.

The aircrew reported 100 percent surveillance of area Charlie with a 75% probability of detection in the northern areas. This acknowledges the simple fact that radar is not perfect and the weather conditions on the 19th were not as favourable as they were on the 18th.

[SLIDE A-6] The flight detected 37 contacts in the zone - 8 visually identified as merchant ships and 22 as fishing vessels (again some were multiple detections so the numbers don't match up exactly on the slide.) A further 7 contacts were not identified as they were either outside of the zone or inside the Indonesian 24nm zone.

SLIDE A-7 (MAP 7, flight path on the afternoon of October 19, when SIEV-X sank)

While the Orions flew a daily flight to cover the entire zone, the HMAS Arunta had a helicopter which flew surveillance flights as required over the southern zone to support the ship. It is important to understand that helo flights did not cover the full zone and were never intended to. They flew close in to Christmas Island in support of our ships.

On the 19th, the HMAS Arunta helicopter was out of service. Navy requested an additional Orion flight to cover its absence.

The flight path is shown at Slide A-7.

Into zone at 1644 and deported at 2115 - 4 hours 31 minutes.

The flight concentrated on the southern zone as per above - it's what the helicopter was supposed to do. As noted in our letters to the SMH and Age, bad weather reduced the flights ability to proceed any further north so the whole Charlie area was not covered. (As noted, the helicopter would not have covered the whole area.)

It only covered 95% of the two southern quadrants because of bad weather.

You will note that Slide A-8 (MAP 8) shows only one radar contact in the north-west sector. Poor weather meant they didn't have the flight endurance to check it. You should also note that this is after the time that SIEV X reportedly sank - so it could not be it. The one contact could also (speculation) give an indication of the deteriorating weather conditions leading to vessels leaving the area - that's my speculation, not ADF (Australian Defence Force).

SLIDE A-9 (MAP 9, flight path on the morning of October 20, when Indonesian fishing boats picked up survivors)

Flight path for normal flight Oct 20.

Entered 0535 and departed 1046.

Achieved 100% of southwest and northwest sectors, 90% of northeast and 45% of southeast.

This, of course, is after SIEV X sank. Differing reports say the survivors were picked up between "just after dawn" or as late as 1000.

[SLIDE A-10 and SLIDE A-12] Boats were detected on radar and visually identified at around 0800 in the northwest sector.

Importantly none of the accounts from survivors have indicated that a plane was heard overhead so it's unlikely that the Orion flew straight over the top of them.


As I said, a full aerial surveillance was done each day.

October 21 - 1250 to 1724

October 22 - 0628 to 1125

October 23 - 1225 to 1744

Again, please note that the times bounce around and that this is standard practice. We don't want the conspiracy theorists accusing us of scheduling our flights to avoid the chance of seeing SIEV X. ([Note added by] Margo [Kingston]: What a strange remark! SIEV-X was well and truly sunk, 353 people well and truly drowned and 44 survivors well and truly picked up by two Indonesian fishing boats by October 21. And who is the "we" - he's not including the Australian reporter in his little conspiracy, surely.)


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