Watch USS Racine Get Pummeled To Death During RIMPAC 2018 Sinking Exercise
RIMPAC executes its first land-based anti-ship missile barrage in a big way.
The Navy's biennial Rim Of The Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise is well underway and the Navy just posted a video of a sinking exercise (SINKEX) involving the retired Newport class Landing Ship-Tank amphibious ship USS Racine. The 5,100-ton displacement vessel was decommissioned 25 years ago but finally met its end on July 12, 2018, at the hands of a flurry of friendly missiles and torpedoes.
Multiple types of weapons were fired at the ship during the highly anticipated drill, which included land-based attackers for the very first time, and in a big way. A variant of the U.S. Navy's recently selected Naval Strike Missile was launched by the U.S. Army—which is also looking to acquire the weapon—from a palletized truck-mounted canister. It flew 63 miles to impact the target successfully.
Japan also unleashed four of its Type 12 land-based anti-ship missiles at the ship, which marked the first time Japanese anti-ship missiles were fired under the command of U.S. military assets.
According to Military.com, nearly half a dozen HIMARS guided-artillery rockets were also fired at the vessel. The push to migrate the hugely successful HIMARS into a maritime and even an anti-ship role is something we once suggested ourselves and have been following closely as of late. It was all but a given that it would be featured in some sort of live-fire fashion during RIMPAC 2018.
Rounding out the international participants on the SINKEX was close U.S. ally Australia, which used one of its new P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to launch AGM-84 Harpoon at the ship.
Last but not least, the Los Angeles class nuclear fast attack submarine USS Olympia also attacked the doomed amphibious ship. As we noted last week, the submarine had been loaded with a submarine-launched version of the Harpoon anti-ship missile—a weapon U.S. submarines haven't carried for two decades—in advance of the exercise.
In addition to firing the UGM-84 Harpoon, USS Olympia also launched a Mk48 torpedo. The torpedo, which often comes last during sinking exercises due to their devastating ability to 'break the backs' of even the hardiest combat ships, did exactly that. Still, it took about an hour for Racine to finally succumb to the seas, passing below the waves at around 8pm on its way to its watery grave 15,000 feet down.
SINKEXs are largely designed to give very high-quality experience to all those involved and to evaluate the effectiveness of weapons and tactics. It's hard for us to accurately evaluate the comparative effects of all the weapons fired as we don't know which ones were loaded with live warheads and which ones we were shown hitting the ship in the video. The location of the impacts and detonations and how the ship was prepped for SINKEX are also important factors. Additionally, much of the video from the exercise isn't released due to the sensitive nature of some weapons' capabilities. But the impacts we do see would likely result in at least a mission kill.
The ship was originally targeted by a Japanese P-3 Orion, but it's ability to track the target and pass that info to 'shooters' was jammed as part of the realistic drill. A Gray Eagle drone and AH-64E Apache Guardian team then targeted the ship and sent that information via data-link back to the shore-based missile and artillery sites where it was loaded into the weapons before they were sent on their way.
Of course, all this fits perfectly into the Pentagon's emerging multi-domain battle strategy that aims to closely integrate distributed capabilities at sea, in the air, in space and cyberspace, and on land by quickly and securely sharing intelligence and targeting data. Also, building up the ability to repulse enemy naval advanced in multiple ways is also seen as a key requirement for fighting potential future peer-state battles, especially ones in the vast reaches of the Pacific.
America's long-neglected anti-ship capability is now migrating away from being the domain of strictly sea and air forces and into the hands of land forces as well. The U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps are looking to rapidly acquire various anti-ship capabilities to provide organic maritime defenses capable of denying the enemy vessels access to strategic littoral waterways as well as remote operating areas and forward staging bases.
Part of this grand plan that evolved from previous buzzword-worthy concepts is to work seamlessly with allies, especially when it comes to sharing targeting data and situational awareness enhancing intelligence. This becomes even more important when there is a requirement to fight across a huge area. Having an Apache-Gray Eagle team pass off targeting data on a maritime contact—not a traditional use of those platforms by the way—to multi-national 'shooters' on land is a nearly ideal display of this concept.
Historically speaking, RIMPAC has been used as a testing ground for new technologies and tactics, many of which are transient in nature. But multi-domain warfare is here to stay, as is the need to drastically increase anti-ship capabilities across all four of the services and the push for greater interoperability of those capabilities with America's regional allies. In other words, this is a small sample of what is to come both in terms of how the U.S. and its friends intend to fight future conflicts in Asia and when it comes to the procurement of new anti-ship systems for the various services.
As for the ex-USS Racine, she put up a good fight and it isn't clear at this time if she will be the only ship sunk during this RIMPAC evolution. Racine was one of six vessels the Navy had earmarked for SINKEX drills, which sadly includes one of the youngest mothballed Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates as we discussed in detail in this previous article. The next known SINKEX drill will be Valiant Shield in September, during which that relatively young Perry class frigate, the USS Ford (FFG-54), is slated to face a similar fate as the Racine.
According to the U.S. Navy, RIMPAC 2018 includes "twenty-five nations, more than 45 surface ships and submarines, 17 national land forces, and more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel... RIMPAC 2018 is the 26th exercise in a series that began in 1971." The exercise runs through August 2nd.
We will keep you updated as to how it progresses.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com