Retired frigates to be target of live-fire tests at RIMPAC exercise

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.


By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: June 25, 2016

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — The retired frigate USS Thach will be sunk during Rim of the Pacific war games in July from fire including 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 Navy originally wanted 52 of the now controversial littoral combat ships, which were touted for their speed and shallow draft for operations in near-shore environments against pirates, mines and diesel submarines.

With the rise of China, however, concerns were raised about the ships’ armor and lethality, and the Pentagon reduced the total and is seeking a more robust frigate as a replacement.

While in Hawaii, the littoral combat ship USS Coronado will test the greater lethality of a Harpoon missile, which has the capability of destroying enemy ships 100 miles away, the Navy said. The Navy is seeking to arm all of its LCSs with over-the-horizon missiles.

Two variants of the LCS are being built: Freedom and Independence. The Coronado, out of San Diego, is an unusual-looking, all-aluminum trimaran design. After RIMPAC the ship will make the first Independence-variant LCS deployment to Singapore.

Also to be sunk during RIMPAC is the former Pearl Harbor frigate USS Crommelin, the Navy said. Crommelin, commissioned in 1983, was retired at Pearl Harbor in late 2012. The Thach was decommissioned in late 2013 after 29 years of naval service.

The sink exercises, or “sinkexes,” are a rare opportunity for RIMPAC participants to unleash on retired warships some of the costly firepower navies usually only get to simulate firing.

Two years ago during RIMPAC, ships, a submarine and aircraft fired a fusillade at the retired 569-foot amphibious transport dock ship USS Ogden 63 miles northwest of Kauai.

The South Korean submarine Lee Sun Sin fired a Harpoon missile; the Norwegian frigate Fridtjof Nansen launched Naval Strike and Evolved SeaSparrow missiles; the Pearl Harbor-based cruiser USS Chosin fired a Harpoon; F/A-18 and P-3 aircraft also fired missiles; and Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 Raptors fired 20 mm cannons.

An Air Force B-52 bomber even dropped a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb onto the Ogden, the Navy said.

Ships are sunk in waters at least 6,000 feet deep and at least 57 miles from land, and only after the area has been surveyed for marine mammals, the Navy previously said. The ocean is about 15,000 feet deep where the Ogden was sunk. A second sinkex in 2014 involved the retired USS Tuscaloosa, a 522-foot tank landing ship.

Twenty-seven nations were to participate in RIMPAC, which starts Thursday and wraps up Aug. 4 mostly around the Hawaiian Islands but also in Southern California. Brazil has dropped out, however, leaving 26 nations.

Four multinational groups are sailing toward Hawaii. The amphibious assault ship USS America left San Diego on Tuesday leading the USS San Diego and USS Howard, Canadian ship HMCS Vancouver and Chilean ship CNS Coch- rane, said the Navy’s 3rd Fleet in San Diego, which plans RIMPAC.

The USS Princeton departed San Diego on Wednesday with the USS Pinckney, the Coast Guard cutter Stratton and Canadian ship HMCS Calgary. The USS Coronado also left San Diego on Wednesday.

The Singaporean ship RSS Steadfast is sailing with the Japanese ship JS Hyuga, Indonesian ship KRI Diponegoro, Indian ship INS Satpura and the destroyer USS Chung-Hoon out of Pearl Harbor.

The USS Stockdale and USS William P. Lawrence met up with the Chinese vessels Hengshui, Peace Ark, Xian, Gaoyouhu and Changdao on June 18 in the western Pacific. China reported the ships are expected to reach Pearl Harbor on Wednesday.

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