RIMPAC target vessel takes a pounding, eventually sinks

Sailors aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) fire an RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile during an international sinking exercise, or SINKEX, for Rim of the Pacific 2016.


By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser (Tribune News Service) | Published: July 19, 2016

How many missiles, bombs and torpedoes does it take to sink a U.S. frigate? More than 10, a Rim of the Pacific exercise showed.

The former USS Thach was sunk far out at sea Thursday after taking a pounding from Australia, South Korea and the United States, the Navy said.

The shooting started at 8 a.m., and the 453-foot retired warship slipped beneath the waves 55 nautical miles north of Kauai at 7:25 p.m.

Everything from an Air Force B-52 bomber to a South Korean submarine took a bead on the Thach. The Navy said the following munitions were used:

  • South Korea submarine: UTM-84 sub-launched Harpoon missile
  • Australia’s HMAS Ballarat: RTM-84 ship-launched Harpoon missile
  • Australian SH-60S helicopter: AGM-114 Hellfire missiles
  • U.S. maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft: AGM-65 Maverick, AGM-84
  • U.S. cruiser USS Princeton: RGM-84 ship-launched Harpoon missile
  • U.S. SH-60S helicopter: AGM-114 Hellfire missiles
  • U.S. F-18 fighters: Mk-84 bomb
  • U.S. Air Force B-52: GBU-12 Paveway laser- guided bomb
  • U.S. submarine: Mk-48 advanced torpedo

The “sink exercises,” or sinkexes, take place in waters 15,000 to 20,000 feet deep, the Navy said.

“This SINKEX was a tremendous event for all the units who participated. As you can imagine, the opportunity to fire live ordnances at a real target is incredibly rare and I know that these men and women learned so much,” Royal Canadian Navy Rear Adm. Scott Bishop, deputy commander of the RIMPAC Combined Task Force, said in a news release. “This kind of training is vital to strengthening our interoperability and increasing our readiness for operations in the future.”

The second sinkex will occur Tuesday when the former USS Crommelin, a onetime Pearl Harbor frigate, will be sunk by units from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States.

The exercise will include the first Harpoon missile shot from a littoral combat ship, a type of U.S. warship being deployed regularly to Singapore and the volatile South China Sea. The USS Coronado will test the greater lethality of a Harpoon, which has the capability of destroying enemy ships 100 miles away, the Navy said. The Navy is seeking to arm all of its littoral combat ships with over-the-horizon missiles.

All sinkex vessels are put through a cleaning process that includes the removal of all polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, transformers and large capacitors, all small capacitors to the greatest extent practical, trash, floatable materials, mercury or fluorocarbon-containing materials and readily detachable solid PCB items, the Navy said. Petroleum is also cleaned from tanks, piping and reservoirs.


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In an April, 2013 file photo, the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43) returns to San Diego after completing a six-month deployment in the U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility.

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