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Attila the Pun
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
 
Department of Foreign Affairs and Tinfoil

It is comforting to know that the people tasked with representing Australia overseas are made of pretty stern stuff. Take for example Tony Kevin - ex-diplomat, current conspiracy theorist. Here he tells Webdiary about his terrifying encounter with Australia's new gunships.

On a sunny and still Tuesday afternoon in Canberra, as Australian state premiers were somewhere down below debating with the Prime Minister the need for harsher national counter-terrorism laws, I was rambling with my kids and dogs on Red Hill, a nature park overlooking and about a mile from our national parliament house. Having a tea-break at Mitzi's Café terrace on top of Red Hill, I became aware of unusually noisy and frequent helicopter activity above me and started taking an interest. With Red Hill's grandstand view over Canberra, it was easy to see what was happening.

Two RAAF helicopters, one about 300 metres behind the other, were flying circuits around central Canberra: north-easterly from the Fairbairn RAAF base, west over the city centre and the Black Mountain public lookout, south over Red Hill, and east back to Fairbairn over the southern suburbs. It took them around 10 minutes to fly this circuit, and they kept going round and round.

First up, the RAAF doesn't operate helicopters - the Australian Army Aviation Corp does. A minor point, but it gets worse from there.

They each appeared to be mounted with two large lethal-looking missile launchers, slung beneath the cabin.

No they didn't.

As the helicopters flew maybe 100 metres above my head, I saw these four launchers clearly.

No you didn't.

I wondered if the loaded missiles were armed, and I wondered what would happen if one of these helicopters were accidentally to crash over populated central Canberra.

I wouldn't worry yourself too much Kevin - Australia's Blackhawks don't carry missiles. They don't have the capability to. What you would have seen are external fuel tanks. Equally bad in the case of a crash, but not lethal looking missile launchers.

Why were they there, so visibly and ostentatiously guarding the perimeter of my city and its visiting premiers? Was it to protect against incoming terrorist aircraft? Surely not an efficient way to do that - ground radar would detect any unaccounted-for flight movement towards Canberra, and ground-ready RAAF aircraft could be in the air within seconds from Fairbairn RAAF base, to intercept and if necessary safely shoot down suspected threats outside Canberra.

No, thats a retarded rhetorical question. Why would you use helicopters to guard against air to air threats? Only someone who thinks fuel tanks are missile launchers would even suggest it.

Was it to guard against a possibility of ground-to-ground missiles being launched at Parliament House from a terrorist car driven up Black Mountain or Red Hill? Surely not, because police cars stationed on both roads for the day would have been less intrusive and more effective in any emergency. There were no police cars I could see on Red Hill.

Assuming you were right, and they were missile launchers, then a gunship armed with a few Maverick AGM's would actually be more effective against a ground target than a few police with revolvers, but that is by the by.

Or was it what I think it was - a terror threat display, government-mounted to impress the visiting premiers with the serious reality of the threat we are all supposed to be facing from terrorism nowadays in Canberra? It was certainly scary enough, under those black missile-armed military helicopters circling low overhead every ten minutes. But maybe that was the point. Maybe it was meant to scare us.

oooh booga booga. Or maybe it was a training exercise. I saw a seahawk cruising around the city the day before the grand final and managed not to post about it, or wet myself.

But could our premiers be so dumb and naïve as to be taken in by such devices?

But you just said you were scared by it? Are you suggesting the premiers are made of sterner stuff?

As I wandered thoughtfully down a Red Hill walking track, the helicopters kept circling overhead. I looked up at them - I guess my face could have been photographed then. If I had been carrying my camera, I could have taken photos of the helicopters and their missiles launchers too. But it's probably a good thing I didn't. Taking photos of legitimate counter-terrorist government activity might soon be illegal.

Its probably a good thing you didn't, as people would point out that fuel tanks look nothing like missile launchers.

Actually, people in comments did point it out, and Tony was big enough to admit his mistake. But then he goes and ruins it again:

And yes, I took them to be missiles. My mistake. But hang on a tick - there is more to this true story. Also having a coffee on Red Hill - I don't think it was a latte - was a pleasant woman who was talking about the helicopters with me (as well as complimenting me on my dogs). She said those helicopters were armed. I asked how she knew and she replied she used to be married to an RAAF pilot. Gospel truth, Stuart. So maybe these helicopters were carrying a suite of "missiles, rockets, machine guns and 20mm cannons" as well as the auxiliary fuel tanks that I saw and mistakenly assumed to be missiles. Of course there is no reason for the helicopters not to be carrying both; and this lady seemed to know whereof she spoke.

Except that the RAAF doesn't use helicopter gunships and neither does the Army. There was a slight chance that they were the new Tigerhawks we are getting, but Tony has confirmed they were blackhawks, and they *aren't* armed with weapon pods. As an aside, who the hell still uses "whereof"?

And when you think about it logically, Stuart, what were the two helicopters doing up there flying around all day guzzling fuel and pilot flying hours if they did not have a military function ie. if they were not armed?

Wow, killer point. What possible military function could a transport helicopter fulfill if they weren't armed? Same thing for those damn Hercules planes...

What is this conspicuous threat display, this militarisation of Australian urban environments, if it is not to scare the s**t out of us?

Dunno - training maybe? Security? Anti-terrorism? I can think of several actually. And if the purpose is to scare the s**t out of us, they are failing miserably. Whilst the SAS doing a counter-terrorism exercise in the city would scare poor Tony, most people I know would go "wow, cool" and sit down to watch.

OK, maybe I am a paranoid conspiracy theorist - I don't think I am, but that is not the issue here.

I do, but lets move on.

The issue is, these things flying around and around over our heads all day are scary and are meant to be scary for most people who like me don't necessarily know what auxiliary fuel tanks look like.

Grow some backbone man.

They make us think there is something to be scared of, or why are they there?

Here is a good test to see if you are a paranoid conspiracy theorist - if you see a miliary vehicle in an urban environment, can you think of any reason it might be there, other than as part of a Government plan to cow the populace? If not, you are probably a paranoid conspiracy theorist, fairfax/ABC journalist, or both.

Of course, it would be unfair of me to label him a conspiracy theorist on the basis of that alone, so lets check out his blog:

I am now firmly of the view, on the basis of substantial, albeit as yet incomplete, public evidence, that the sinking of SIEV X was the result of planned acts of sabotage in Indonesia, involving use of undercover agents under a people smuggling disruption program that was being conducted by elements of the Indonesian police, who had been trained and funded by Australian police; and that Australian government agencies have much more knowledge of this suspected crime against humanity than they have so far admitted to the Australian Senate or people.

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