Home Americas RIMPAC participants barrage former cargo ship with live fire during sinking exercise

RIMPAC participants barrage former cargo ship with live fire during sinking exercise

The US Navy has shared first video footage from the sinking exercise (SINKEX) carried out by participants of this year’s exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) that is taking place off Hawaii.

SINKEX are a regular part of the world’s largest naval exercise and involve previously-decommissioned vessels that undergo extensive preparations ahead of their final tasking.

This year’s target was the decommissioned amphibious cargo ship ex-USS Durham (LKA 114), which sank on August 30 after being hit by live fire from ships and aircraft from ten nations participating in RIMPAC.

The navy has so far released just one video of the exercise and of ex-USS Durham being hit by missiles. We are likely to see more footage over the next few days.

The exercise provided participating units the opportunity to gain proficiency and confidence in their weapons and systems through realistic training that could not be duplicated in simulators.

“Simulation is a critical part of our training but there is nothing better than to conduct live fire training,” said Royal Australian Navy Capt. Phillipa Hay, commander, RIMPAC 2020 Task Force One. “Sinking exercises are an important way to test our weapons and weapons systems in the most realistic way possible. It demonstrates as a joint force we are capable of high-end warfare.”

Ex-Durham was a Charleston-class amphibious cargo ship commissioned on May 24, 1969, and was decommissioned on February 25, 1994. The ship was named for Durham, North Carolina, and served during the Gulf War.

SINKEX preparations

Former navy vessels used in SINKEXs, referred to as hulks, are prepared in strict compliance with regulations prescribed and enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency.

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 people and marine mammals are not in an area where they could be harmed during the event.

Prior to being transported for participation in a SINKEX, each vessel is put through a rigorous cleaning process. This includes the removal of all liquid polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from transformers and large capacitors, small capacitors to the greatest extent practical, and all trash, floatable materials, mercury or fluorocarbon-containing materials, and readily detachable solid PCB items. Petroleum is also cleaned from tanks, piping, and reservoirs.

Scaled back RIMPAC 2020

Ten nations, 22 surface ships, one submarine, and approximately 5,300 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from August 17 to 31 in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. The at-sea-only construct for RIMPAC 2020 was developed to ensure the safety of all military forces participating, and Hawaii’s population, by minimizing shore-based contingents, while striking a balance between combating future adversaries and the COVID-19 threat.

RIMPAC 2020 is the 27th exercise in the series that began in 1971. This year’s theme was “Capable, Adaptive, Partners.” The training syllabus included multinational anti-submarine warfare, maritime intercept operations, and live-fire training events, among other cooperative training opportunities.