Each squadron fired AGM-84D Harpoon missiles at the decommissioned Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship ex-USS New Orleans (LPH-11) in the Hawaiian operating area. The purpose of the SINKEX was to provide P-3C Orion air crews valuable training in harpoon missile proficiency. Air crews train extensively on the simulated usage of a harpoon missile but rarely get the chance to fire the live weapon.
“It was an outstanding opportunity for our young junior officers and air crewmen to gain valuable experience shooting a forward-firing weapon,” said Cmdr. Jason Jorgensen, commanding officer of VP-5 and deputy of Combined Task Group 172.2. Each aircraft launched an on-target hit on the New Orleans.
“Flying with a live weapon always heightens air crew and maintenance awareness of tactics, techniques and procedures. The SINKEX serial provided 11 Squadron with a great opportunity to test our individual and collective warfighting skills in a complex coalition environment. It does not get too much better than that,” said Wing Commander Phil Champion, commanding officer of 11 Squadron, RAAF.
It was the first time in eight years the RAAF shot a harpoon missile.
The AGM-84D Harpoon is an all-weather, over-the-horizon, anti-ship missile system. The Harpoon’s active radar guidance, warhead design, low-level cruise trajectory and terminal mode sea-skim or pop-up maneuvers assure high survivability and effectiveness. The missile is capable of being launched from surface ships, submarines, shore batteries or aircraft such as the P-3C Orion.
Commissioned in 1968, New Orleans was the third U.S. ship named for
the Battle of New Orleans. Throughout its 30 years of service, the ship
took part in various amphibious exercises and contingency operations
during the Vietnam War, carrying sailors and Marine ground forces,
helicopters and landing craft. The ship was decommissioned in 1997.
VP-4 and VP-47 flew another SINKEX on the ex-USS Monticello (LSD 35) on July 14 using harpoons and AGM-65 Mavericks to destroy the target. VP-5 and VP-40 conducted the last of the sinking exercises on July 17 also using harpoons and mavericks against the ex-USS Anchorage (LSD-36). Each crew scored a direct hit, on time.
RIMPAC is a biennial, multinational exercise designed to strengthen regional partnerships and improve interoperability. P-3C Orion air crews will conduct similar exercises throughout the course of RIMPAC.