HMS Westminster, a Wildcat helicopter and three RAF Typhoon jets launched a variety of weapons, sinking the former USS Boone during exercise Atlantic Thunder held on 7th September.
The exercise was a very rare live test of complex weapons against a warship target. HMS Westminster fired two Harpoon anti-ship missiles at the same time as a US P-8A Poseidon aircraft launched one of its own, a total of 660kg of high explosive striking ex-USS Boone simultaneously. The main value of the Harpoon firing was to support the development of the RN’s long-range targeting, believed to include satellite communications as well as the opportunity to conduct training to validate tactics and operating procedures.
The 815 NAS Wildcat helicopter embarked on HMS Westminster quickly followed firing Martlet air-to-surface missiles into the Boone’s hull. This was the first test of the lightweight multi-role missile against a warship target. Until then, Martlet had only been used against purpose-built targets. With just a 3kg warhead, Marltet is not really intended to go up against warships and is best suited to countering small craft.
The Wildcat’s crew stayed airborne and a Forward Air Controller (Airborne) provided terminal guidance using the laser-targeting pod to guide in a Typhoon of 41 Squadron RAF to launch a 500lb Paveway IV guided bomb against the target. This is the first time an RAF Typhoon has dropped live ordnance onto a warship used as a maritime target, and the first time a Royal Navy helicopter has been used to provide guidance for a Paveway IV.
USAF F-15E Eagles, assigned to 494th Fighter Squadron based at RAF Lakenheath dropped maritime strike joint direct attack munitions (JDAM) on the ship. Finally, destroyer USS Arleigh Burke also hit the target vessel with a Standard Missile 6 (SM-6), the first anti-ship SM-6 engagement in the US European Command area of responsibility.
The remaining UK stocks of certified Harpoon Block IC are low and the increasingly obsolete missile is due to go out of RN service next year. It looks likely to be replaced by the Naval Strike Missile. This kind of exercise is very useful but it should be borne in mind that a ‘dead ship’ that is making no attempt to manoeuvre or deploy hard / soft kill countermeasures is not a full test of a missile’s capabilities.
HMS Westminster was later involved in tracking Russian warships and then returned to Portsmouth. She sailed again on 18 September, her last time as a Portsmouth-based ship. She was the first Type 23 frigate have a Life Extension refit, completed in January 2017 and is long overdue a major refit. She is currently in Gibraltar but will return to Devonport and follow HMS Argyll as the next frigate to undergo a post-LIFEX upkeep period in the covered docks at the Frigate Support Centre. As part of the plan to move all the towed array sonar-equipped frigates to Plymouth, following her refit she will emerge in 2024 and become a Devonport-based ship for the remainder of her career.
Has anyone used a sinkex to test the true effectiveness of defensive weapons ? I imagine a barge with type 41/slyver even sea ceptor mushrooms remotely controlled from an air defence destroyer.
No. Because no-one is going to put that on a target to be sunk. Mushrooms don’t usually provide defence in any case, just a tasty adjunct to your meal.
Our cousins do have something though…..
DVIDS – Video – NSWC Port Hueneme Self Defense Test Ship (SDTS) – Virtual Tour (dvidshub.net)
It doesn’t need to be on the target just a nearby barge remotely controlled from a destroyer?
They use ‘simulated missile attack’ by a fast jet at low level against a working frigate and destroyer.
The RN used to use the Hawk trainer but it was privatised ? and a small business jet does the work now
The RN website still shows the Hawk in RN colours, not sure if this is still the case
I guess my reasoning is simulated air defence isn’t the same as actually proving u can shoot down a real missile, we saw back in the Falklands that all sorts of issues can arise which stop the defensive missiles locking on or firing etc , better to iron out these issues in a real live test. Back in 82 there were several occasions when RN controllers told sea harriers to back off such was the as it proved over confidence in their air defence systems.
That’s a very different thing. That’s procedural and more to do with deconflicting defensive systems than over-confidence.
The USN uses BQM-177A target drones and the UK via QinetiQ supplies ‘Banshee jet-80’ high speed target drone which can sometimes be shot down in exercises.
The Army used it since the 80s for shoulder launched missile targets
It was supposed to be tested from PoW on its US deployment this year – which isnt happening now.
You mean PLA Navy barge like below? Fitted with more than 30 masks topped with radar reflectors of various shapes and sizes, mesh screen, radar domes and type 30 barrels defensive launchers.
OHPs are such interesting ships.
They’ve always struck me as odd ducks. A single arm launcher for the main defensive and offensive weapons, the main amidships with limited firing arcs, but still quite large for the era. History has certainly proven they can take a hit though
They have some area anti-air capacity. That Mk13 can be used for SM1 and Harpoon. Mostly for pooping off at Soviet MPA to keep them back.
The gun is well positioned. Fantastic arcs for anti-air whether the aircraft is attacking from the beam or from above. And good for surface work too which for most of the time in peace will be willy waving as non-warships.
Soviet MPA ? I think the Soviet Navy used Bears and Tu-22M Backfire bombers with heavy missiles in that time to allow their patrols reach far out into North Atlantic ( and North Pacific). I suppose they could be described as MPA
The single arm launcher with two concentric rings of missiles below was a very neat design. The launcher arm and cover rotating to be above the selected missile in the magazine. The Harpoon capability was very useful and with only a single fire control channel meant only 1 could be fired at a time anyway ( except Harpoon)
Yes Soviet MPA. F’all use against a regiment of bombers. MPA flying in ones…….
Shoot down the missile !
Again all you are seeing is equipment not the tactics and strategies.
Of course. Clearly a whole regiment of Tu-22M in a saturation raid scenario was the worst case which I seem to remember was the impetuous behind the AEGIS cruiser ( and later AB DDG variant) and carrier air defence
One little FFG may have been part of the AAW screen and may have had its missile fire control linked in to be controlled by the AEGIS cruiser ( I dont know the detail) but if not it certainly could possibly be in a position to catch any missiles which got through.
The equipment usually has a back story on the tactics and strategy to be used
The Soviets too would likely only use a full regiment (2 squadrons of 8 ?) against a carrier strike group
SM-1 was carried to be poop off at MPA.
Was upgradeable to SM-2 ( blk III-A) missile as the RAN did . Who later replaced that with a vertical launch module for Sea Sparrow- but kept the Mk13 launcher for Harpoon https://www.australiandefence.com.au/E5A83040-F806-11DD-8DFE0050568C22C9
So could possibly take on a Backfire or two around then
Single shaft too, so as to make use of the same machinery as the Spruance class.
Yes. They were much derided at introduction ( single shaft, single launcher, ‘little 75mm) – much like the claims about Type 31 now
But quantity has its own advantages
Unlike the T31 though they were an actual improvement on the ships that they replaced
Quantity has a quality all its own.
They proved themselves in USN service, as well as the Spanish Armada and the RAN. And their derivatives (F100/F110/Hobart AWD) have taken the basic design to another level.
The OHP class was originally designed as guided missile escort rather than for wide area air defense. Many in services with non-US navies were however updated with additional AA missiles.
They were very useful ships and maxed out during their life time in service with USN, relieving other ships for more high risk duties.
I would rather have a few OHP ships during the Falklands war than those under armed and under protected Type-21 ships.
The follow on Constellation class is even more capable ships.
Yes. T21 was never intended to be an ocean going escort but a patrol frigate. OHP would have been better-er. 🙂
Time period of first design build OHP is 10 years before the T21. ( evolution in that era was a lot quicker than now)
T22 even, was 5 years ahead of the OHP
The Knox class is more of the same time period as T21
this is USS Robert E Peary
OHP is equivalent for T42/T22, not T21.
Will you prefer OHP than T42/T22? is the question to answer…
# I that case, it depends…
OHP can survive better than T42 even after 2 Exocet missile hits. And it has CIWS long before any T22. No wonder that OHP has been chosen by 10 navies with 71 ships
So USN frigate is equivalent to RN destroyer? That said a lot.
T21 are just much less capable ships, developing cracks, nearly useless Seacat missiles. However they distinguished themselves during the Falklands war, a saving grace.
Is not to blame the T21 ships but just a failure to arm RN ships better, in general.
1 data point is not enough to make judgment considering damage.
Neither we have price/cost to say what is worthwhile.
Yes. Plus the T21 were designed-built a decade before the OHP FFG.
No one would compare a 50s frigate with a 60s one , so why compare a 70s FFG with a 60s FF
So what ships should be compared with the T21 class? The Krivak class? Such beautiful ships.
What is the point of having cheap under-armed, under-protected ships that are incapable of surviving in battles?
Fault economy and Paper Tiger.
I like them. Built for purpose, completely served for the mission.
SM-1 SAM to counter USSR long-range large and fast anti-ship missiles and a 20 mm CIWS to counter Exocet/Harpoon like sea-skimmer.
A TACTASS sonar with (up to) Two SH-60B helos for good level of ASW (as of 1980s-1990s). They even have a Prairie-Masker system for noise reduction, which is still used on modern US DDGs.
3inch gun for “misc-tasks” and 2ndary AAW.
Relatively long hull with good sheer and bulwark.
Beautiful she is.
It is a shame that their appears to be no decent book on the class.
The earlier Brooke class, FFG-1 to -5 set the scene , derived from the Garcia class (shown below) and introduced the FFG type , although called DEG when launched
. 1 shaft ( but steam), 1 launcher , 1 ASROC launcher and with an older 5in mount
They were derided for the boxy aluminum superstructure, the single arm-launcher and the single shaft, but they were spacious, had tremendous hangars and large helo decks, and both hull-mounted and towed-array sonars plus ASROC and 2 triple torpedo launchers. Really well-rounded ASW escort ships with a good long-range air-search radar (SPS-49) and limited area air defense.
And they were simultaneously built in multiple yards.
Great article as always. As usual, raises questions about RN stike capability which maintains its long term trend toward zero while that of potential adversaries keeps expanding.
Yes it would be good for the MOD to place their order for JSM/NSM soon as the list of customers keeps growing.
I’ve seen a few SINKEX but I can’t recall one where they had actual systems still working, or at least appearing to work, until now. This FFG seems to have had an operable navigation radar, that was working when it was hit. You can first see it at 0:43 through 0:46 of the video.
I also don’t believe that the RAN hasn’t upgraded their Harpoons, nor do I believe they don’t have a stash either in the UK or from the USN if needed. I don’t care what they say publicly. Call it OPSEC.
The ships in a sinkex are dead ships. There is no electrical power, nothing. Most of the systems have been storob-ed for usable equipment.
The lads who went round ex-Brave with a video camera after the first set of weapon strikes were all using torches.
Will HMS Westminster receive the PGMU mod during this post-LIFEX refit period at the FSC? Decent, reliable propulsion capability always seemed to be a core mission prerequisite, from this outsider’s perspective.
I have had another quick look for a book on OHP. All I can find was this public domain ebook.
Royal Navy sinks U.S. Navy frigate in the North Atlantic, in 2022?
Is the tyrant King George III back in power?!!!
Sorry, everyone, but I had to say it:)
By the way, from a Yank on the other side of the pond, I really enjoy reading this website.
Keep up the good work:)
well said todd.
Todd – Can you recommend any equivalent US sites?
Try ‘The War Zone’, not as navy focused, more a bit of everything.
There is a blog Navy Matters (navy-matters.blogspot.com)
no pics, but lots of interesting commentary.
The USN is apparently run by MBA interns or some such.
Without the French help , especially their navy and supplies likely the 13 colonies would have remained that
The sea Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781, where the French fleet led by Comte de Grasse defeated the outnumbered British fleet, which departed leaving Cornwallis to surrender
Just like to prod our american friends, to correct some of their misunderstandings about how the revolutionary war was ‘won’ by a sea battle fought by the Kingdom of France
Keep it up.
That is why Americans remain largely predisposed to support the French, regardless of perceived level of collective boorish behavior on their part at any given time.