RAF Typhoons help sink US frigate

In the early weeks of September, during a multinational SINKEX off the coast of Scotland, Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s helped destroy a decommissioned US Navy frigate.

Three RAF Typhoons took part in exercise Atlantic Thunder alongside other UK and US assets. The FGR4s flew in planned coordination with a Royal Navy frigate, HMS Westminster (F237), a Royal Navy Wildcat HMA2 helicopter, USAF F-15E Strike Eagles and a US Navy P-8A Poseidon.

A Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 comes into land after an Op Shader sortie. The FGR4 is capable of carrying multiple air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions
A Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4 comes into land after an Op Shader sortie. The FGR4 is capable of carrying multiple air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions as can be seen on this particular jet. MOD Crown Copyright

This type of exercise, which saw an array of highly explosive weaponry obliterate the decommissioned USS Boone (FFG-28) was the first in 18 years for the Royal Navy and many other firsts were achieved.

This was the first time RAF Typhoons dropped live weaponry on to a warship and the unit responsible was No 41 Squadron, the RAF’s test and evaluation unit based at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire. The unit launched multiple Paveway IV precision guided missiles from the Typhoons towards the ex-US warship. This was aided by the Royal Navy Wildcat lighting up the impact point with its laser spotter from the MX-15 EO/IR turret.

Adding more weapons to the scenario, HMS Westminster launched two Harpoon anti-ship missiles, whilst simultaneously a US Navy P-8 fired another Harpoon at the target. This made 660kg of weaponry impact the Boone at once.

The ex US Navy Destoyer, USS Boone was used as a target during the SINKEX in the North Atlantic
The ex-US Navy frigate, USS Boone (FFG-28), was used as a target during the SINKEX in the North Atlantic. Royal Navy

The US Navy guided-missile destroyer, USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51), then launched an SM-6 missile and USAF F-15Es from RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk, dropped several guided air-to-ground Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) on to the Boone.

Shortly after this myriad of weaponry was buried into the ship, the Wildcat helicopter launched Martlet air-to-surface missiles at the hull. This firing of Martlets was another first for the Royal Navy, as it was the first time a Wildcat had fired the Martlet at a realistic target at sea.  

A Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter seen carrying the Martlet rocket system
A Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter seen carrying the Martlet rocket system. MOD Crown Copyright

Commander Ed Moss-Ward, Commanding Officer of HMS Westminster, said: “Atlantic Thunder has demonstrated that UK and US naval and air forces can work together to deliver an end-to-end kill chain against a maritime target at long range.

“The integration of high-end weapons, sensors and communications with our NATO allies is key to the collective war fighting capability of the Alliance demonstrated by the sinking exercise.”

A Harpoon missile is launched from HMS Westminster at the ex USS Boone during the sinkex
A Harpoon missile is launched from HMS Westminster at the ex USS Boone during the SINKEX. Royal Navy