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Theft Of Trade Secrets

The Silicon War Triology

Chapter 2 - Tango 13

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE
60 MILES NORTHEAST OF LOS ANGELES

 

As dawn started to light up the morning sky, the Mohave Desert turned a golden orange and started to come alive.  Just 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles, CA, there was a bright flash and roar from the CSD/ARC solid-fuel booster that could be heard for miles around.  It was the third live test of a new Cruise missile that had been originally designed by Boeing but now was built by Raytheon Systems Company in El Segundo, CA.  With a perfect launch, the wings and tail deployed as design.  Then as fuel was feed to the Williams International F107-WR-402 Cruise turbo-fan engine, the 20 inch diameter tube picked up speed and turned due east away from Edwards Air Force Base.

Edwards was built west of a 5-mile wide and 12 mile long dry lakebed that had been used by the military to test Black Projects for years.  It had easy access to rail, road, and anything built could land and take off from this magical toy factory. 

Today’s test was just another of a new weapon needing a secure flight test area.  Having already flown before here and in Arizona-New Mexico, test engineers had programmed the missile (code name TANGO 13) to do a series of aggressive attack simulations to test out the real time limits to navigation accuracy and duration of flight time.

The 18-foot long missile had completed a basic figure eight navigation test over the lakebed with ease.  With this, it dropped down from the 500-foot test altitude above the 2,500-foot elevation of the lake and started its next test run.  At 100 feet, Tango 13 accelerated to the 500 mph and headed west toward the Pacific coast as planned.  Just before Fiss Hill, she veered northwest to avoid any population that might report another "flying saucer" sighting.

As a new generation of weapon, this long-range subsonic Cruise missile was designed for striking high value or heavily defended land targets.  On launch, it weighed about 3,500 pounds, but when the booster fell off, the 2,900-pound missile could fly over 870 nautical miles.  Aided by the 8-foot wingspan, this unmanned, self guided missile was designed to deliver a 1,000-pound warhead or conventional sub-munitions dispenser and guarantee the destruction of the assigned target the size of your garage. 

However, that’s not all the hybrid software package had in it today.  The Navy also wanted to see how it would do over the ocean in a "land to sea" attack simulation.

The missile’s Guidance Systems with the Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) and Digital Scene Matching Area Correlation (DSMAC) subsystems was used to guide this marvel.  Then, they were themselves a marvel of the latest technology.  It was one of the first microprocessor based weapon systems made by the US Aerospace Industry.  By 1974, there had been over 7 years of subsystem design, 100s of black projects and 1,000s of "special grants" to the major college research centers.  Major players like Boeing, Hughes Aircraft, Raytheon, General Dynamic, North American Rockwell, and such had spent hundreds of thousands of man-hours to create this marvel.

The high-speed navigation test thru the Serra Nevada range on the east side of California was the first serious test of the onboard TERCOM navigation system.  It used a preloaded, on-board contour map of the terrain (Map Memory) that the missile would fly over.  The original data was obtained by the Hughes Aircraft and TRW satellites using imaging, laser, and radar look down measuring techniques that had mapped the earth’s surface on a one-meter grid. 

This allows the TERCOM system to "see" the terrain it was flying over using its radar system and then match this to the data stored in the Map Memory. 

This will allow the TERCOM guided missile to fly lower and therefore making it harder to detect by ground radar.  Instead of flying over a mountain range, it will now fly between them, in the valleys.  Today’s tests are how the TERCOM systems would handle the navigation issue of earth’s elevation, which is fixed, and the impact of a growing tree of 25 to 80 feet tall.  Will it fly into a tree that it doesn’t know about?

The next navigation test was to leave the desert and navigate between the mountains taking advantage of the canyons of the Tehachapi range and pop out south of Bakersfield, CA.  This was the first real test of the TERCOM navigation system.  Can Tango 13 navigate? 

Now it’s one thing to follow a canyon to the source but that also means you fly above the ground protection when you get to the top.  Then there are the power lines.  Do you fly over them or under them?

For 1,000s of years, people have found and traveled these breaks in the mountain ranges.  Then came the trails, which became the roads and finally became the highways of today.  What TERCOM had done, is gave the mission planners a look down from space and plotted the elevation of the earth on a 1 meter grid.

Tango 13 penetrated the mountains just north of Liebre Twins and headed west at 300 feet.  It was south of Stratton Canyon but north of Bear Canyon and Cedar Canyon toward Bronco Canyon.  Then she came down Winters Canyon and pooped out of the hills just south of Tejon Reservoir Number Two at max speed of 550 mph.

Both fire and police departments along the planned path were notified of the test and teams of Marines with helicopters had been staged just in case.  There was a great sigh of relief when Tango 13 popped out of the western hills south of Bakersfield, dropped to 100 feet above the San Joaquin Valley and changes course to 270°.  Within 90 seconds, she crossed the I-99 freeway and this would trigger the many reports of a "space ship at a 100 feet heading west."

The test objective was to stay as low as possible, head NW and follow the terrain west over the tip of the Los Padres National Forest toward Santa Margarita where an over flight of the San Luis Obispo Military Reserve would allow US Army surface radar an attempt to detect and conduct a signature analysis and profiling.  Although many said they heard it coming, no recordings were made by any of the in-test Radar systems.  Only when Tango 13 increased altitude before dropping back down into the Morrow Bay State Park area, did any radar register the event.  Of course, by then, it was too late.

As Tango 13 hit the coast, it dropped down to 100 feet and crossed the coastline just north of Morrow Rock.  About one mile off shore, she turned south passed Spooners Cove for her next test.

Both radar installations at Vandenberg Air Force Base and on the Charles F. Adams class guided missile destroyer, USS Waddell didn’t see the approach.  Although not publically publicized, the test was a high speed run at 50 feet and to have some fun, both Vandenberg and the Waddell were told the time to expect it.  At 18,000 feet, the only sign the F16 chase plane could see was the light wake left on the surface of this calm Pacific Ocean.

As Tango 13 passed just west of Corallina Cove, there were light puffy clouds forming from the heat of the day.  At about 5 miles out, Tango 13’s DSMAC system activated, located the Waddell, and processed the image profile.  Tango 13 adjusted her course to 167° and was set to attack the starboard side of the Waddell.

The USS Waddell was at 18 knots with a heading 290’ when Tango 13 approached.  Of the five different RADAR systems on the Waddell, neither the AN/SPS-10 surface search nor AN/SPS-37 air search RADAR ever picked up Tango 13.  At about 3 miles out, the port side AN/SPG-51 Tartar fire control RADAR detected something, but the first alert came from a lookout that thought he saw a waterspout.

Although AN/SPG-53 gun fire control RADAR activated within the last 20 seconds or at 800 yards, Tango 13 made a 13 G straight up turn to 350 feet, leveled back out, corrected navigation, accelerated on a direct angle for the bridge of the Waddell.  With this maneuver, the AN/SPG 53 RADAR lost its lock on the target and it was a clear path home for Tango 13.  This test left everyone on the Waddell with one though, if this would have been real, the 3,200 ton, 437 foot USS Waddell would have been sunk with the projected heavy loss of life.

At 550 mph, the overpass was just a blink of the eye, at 500 yards out.  Tango 13 rose to 200 ft, entered a 1 mile diameter right hand turn to allow all Waddell radar systems to detect, record radar signatures and with a blink of an eye "Poof," she was back to 100 feet, full acceleration due south heading for the Channel Islands National Park.

All radar including the new test radar systems were active at Vandenberg AFB with the understanding that an unknown object would do an over flight.  Just north of San Antonio Valley, Tango 13 crossed back over land and adjusted her altitude for the 50-foot land elevation.

Now Vandenberg AFB has the most modern, upgraded and under test radar systems on the west coast of North America, but for Tango 13, it was only 30 seconds from the coast to the start of the 15,000-foot long runway.

It was 17 seconds down the west side of the runway before the quick course change to 220°, south west and left everyone wondering what went wrong.  At 100 feet, Tango 13 passed just north of the small city of Surf heading back out to sea.  At the 1 minute mark, she changed course to 180°, due south at 100 feet.

She was 1.5 miles west of the Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Compound, just passing west of Arguello Point Lighthouse when the real fun began.

Due south of them was the USS Halsey (DLG/CG-23), a Leahy-class Guided Missile Cruiser running at 28 knots heading due West.  Already at general quarters, the call from the Waddell brought everyone to the edges of their chairs.  The Waddell was just 100 miles north and Tango13 was closing on them at 550 mph.  "Its show time" the Captain said and the only thing between them was the Channel Islands.

Close to the California mainland, yet worlds apart, is the Channel Islands National Park that encompasses five remarkable islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara) and their ocean environment.  Isolation over thousands of years has created unique animals, plants, and archeological resources found nowhere else on Earth.

During the 60’s, pesticides like DDT and Dieldrin stripped the Southern California coast line of most of the wildlife including the brown pelican and all shell life they fed on.  However, they have thrived within these islands.  Now, this bird is distinguished from the common American White Pelican by its brown body, 40 inches in body length, weight up to 10 lb and wingspan up to 8 feet.  It also had a habit of diving for fish from high in the air.

Just north of the outer island of San Miguel, Tango 13 changed course heading due east to use the islands as a radar screen.  She then turned south between the two main islands of Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz to approach the Halsey from behind using her DSMAC missile guidance system.

With Santa Rosa Island to its west and Santa Cruz Island to the east, Tango 13 changed course to due west and hugged the coastline of Santa Rose.  She dropped to 50 feet, accelerated to max speed and with half her fuel gone, she would approach the Halsey at over 585 mph.

Although, the Brown Pelican is the smallest of the eight species of pelican, at 587 mph, the first bird hit the nose and ricocheted under the belly of Tango 13.  However, the second just disintegrated and its remains were instantly sucked into the turbo fan intake.  Whether it was the vapor or debris that caused the flameout, that’s was all that it took. 

At 587 mph and at 50 feet, Tango 13 was doomed.  Without power, the central microprocessor increased fuel, and added up aileron but nothing happened.  Thirty four seconds after the impact of the pelican, Tango 13 first touched the smooth surface of the Pacific Ocean, skipped once, skipped twice and finally splashed to a rest 4 miles due west of the of Santa Rosa Island.

The F16 chase plane was the first to notice Tango 13 was down.  With the call "Tango13 is down.  I repeat Tango 13 is down... 33.5237N 120.1101W!"  Both the Halsey and Waddell went from "combat" mode to "rescue" mode.  The Halsey was first on scene but there was no debris.  Sonar sweeps showed nothing.  Communication with the F16 pinpointed the exact location and the Halsey continued to do sonar sweeps, still nothing.  As the Waddell arrived, sector sweeps were conducted, nothing.  Tango 13 was now missing.

As Tango 13 filled with water, her onboard components were still active.  So as she sank under the surface, the navigation system leveled the wings and flaps.  Turned the tail left toward the original Halsey’s location and Tango 13 slowly sank into a shallow glide.

At first, the speed was well under 2 mph, but as she got deeper, the existing air trapped within her was reduced by pressure, and she sped up.  Tango 13 was flying again as programmed.  At about 120 feet down, there was the first structural failure.  It wasn’t much, but it did cause the electronic systems to finally fail.  Then internal compartment seals gave way and what air did remained, exited into the dark blue Pacific Ocean.  Amazingly, Tango 13’s external structural integrity remained intact.

Around most continents are shallow seas that cover gently sloping areas called continental shelves and reach depths of about 650 feet (200 m).  The continental shelves ends at the steeper continental slopes, which lead down to the deepest parts of the ocean.  Off the coast of California, the continental shelves were 580 feet and within 25 miles off shore, the steeper continental slopes drop off to over 2,600 feet.

At 480 feet down, Tango 13 was still in a glide mode as it passed over the outer edge of the continental slope.  All air within her was now gone and any structural damage that could have taken place had already taken place.  She was now in a fixed glide mode, powered by gravity and gliding into the depths toward her unknown resting place.

 

 

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