This year’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises are currently underway, with more than two dozen nations participating and still more eavesdropping from nearby. The training cycle has included participation from 45 surface ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 members of some 26 national militaries — but the real spectacle of the event took place on July 12, when elements from Australia, the United States, and Japan participated in the sinking of the USS Racine, a long decommissioned Newport class Landing Ship.
The sinking of the ship was conducted using missiles and torpedoes fired from both naval and ground-based weapons systems.
“Today, we demonstrated the lethality and adaptability of our joint forces in the maritime environment,” said Adm. Phil Davidson, the commander of the recently renamed U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. “As naval forces drive our enemies into the littorals, army forces can strike them. Conversely, when the army drives our enemies out to sea naval firepower can do the same.”
The U.S. Army actually played a particularly interesting role in the sinking of the vessel — launching a variant of Naval Strike Missiles from land-based truck-mounted launchers. The missiles traveled more than 60 miles out to sea before successfully impacting the hull of the former Racine. This demonstration shows that although the United States may lack the hypersonic anti-ship missiles touted by competitors like China or Russia, they still possess the means to engage enemy ships even without a naval presence. The Naval Strike Missile is designed to intelligently target specific vulnerable areas of enemy vessels, using data links and onboard computers to even delay detonation until after it penetrates the hull to deal maximum damage. The missiles can also coordinate with one another, adjusting their trajectory to impact the target simultaneously — dramatically reducing an enemy ship’s chances at intercepting the flurry of inbound missiles.
“With numerous warships, allied submarines, multiple strike aircraft, and multi-domain land forces participating, this SINKEX was an extremely valuable part of RIMPAC,” said Royal Canadian Navy Rear Adm. Bob Auchterlonie. SINKEX being common military vernacular for Sinking Exercise. “SINKEXs are an important way for us to test our weapons and weapons systems in a way that provides our ships’ companies, our submariners, our aircrews, and our land forces with the most realistic training possible.”
According to an Indo-Pacific Command press release, the former USS Racine was prepared for the SINKEX in strict compliance with international regulation, as well as America’s Environmental Protection Agency.
The release reads:
Each SINKEX is required to sink the hulk in at least 1,000 fathoms (6,000 feet) of water and at least 50 nautical miles from land. Surveys are conducted to ensure that people and marine mammals are not in an area where they could be harmed during the event.
Prior to the vessel being transported for participation in a SINKEX, each vessel is put through a rigorous cleaning process, including the removal of all polychlorinated biphenyls (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. Petroleum is also cleaned from tanks, piping and reservoirs.
Watch U.S., Japanese, and Australian forces work together to sink the former USS Racine in the video below:
Screen capture courtesy of YouTube