Many naval shipwrecks are in deep water or in mud so nasty that even if in shallower depths, have visibility of about nil. Not so with the recently lost Helge Ingstad, which for now at least, is in the shallows of a crystal clear fjord in Norway at depths that enable small surface ROVs and scuba-equipped salvage work.
For those under a rock for the past month, HNoMS Helge Ingstad is a Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate of the Royal Norwegian Navy. On 8 November 2018, the frigate collided with the tanker Sola TS in Norwegian waters, was severely damaged in the collision and beached:
The cables didn’t hold and she slipped down the ledge where she rests today.
The Norwegian Navy this week released two videos from the wreck. One of them piloting the Blueye Pioneer underwater drone inside her hull, and another recovering Naval Strike Missile (NSM) launch canisters from her topside.
The NSM is a 13-foot-long, 900-pound anti-ship missile produced by Norway’s Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace and it is being shopped by Raytheon in the U.S. to replace Harpoon on frigates and LCS vessels. The range is 100+ nm and it is optimized for use in so-called green or blue water. Nansen-class frigates tote eight of these. More on the NSM here.
Of note, Blueye is also a Norwegian company. More on the ROV, which only runs like $6K, here.
The recent RIMPAC 2018 exercise saw two notable sinkex operations, the first, the old LST USS Racine we have covered already.
The second, the decommissioned OHP-class frigate USS McClusky (FFG 41), was sent to on 19 July to the bottom of waters some 15,000 feet deep, 55 nautical miles north of Kauai.
Her sad, final plunge:
One of the youngest of her class, ex-McClusky was an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate commissioned in December 1983 and decommissioned in January 2015. The ship was named for Lt. Cmdr. Wade McClusky, a naval aviator who led his squadrons of Douglass Dauntless dive bombers against a Japanese fleet during the famed attack on the island of Midway in June 1942. He went on to distinguish himself in subsequent actions during the war and again in the Korean War before retiring at the rank of rear admiral in 1956. The ship operated worldwide during her more than 30 years of service. During one deployment in 2002, her crew successfully intercepted a drug runner at sea hauling 75 bales of cocaine weighing nearly 4,000 pounds.
Notably, the first use of a sub-Harpoon in a generation was seen during the exercise when Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN-717) loaded one of these unicorns and let it fly towards Racine.
The periscope footage, 30 secs:
Loading B-roll, 5 minutes:
30-sec compilation including the hit on Racine’s forward third:
In the end, though, there was one FFG-7 class vessel present at RIMPAC that had a better go of things. The Royal Australian Navy guided-missile frigate HMAS Melbourne (FFG 05) participated on the other side of the gun line and on 2 August set sail back to Oz, intact.
Live fire from aircraft, a submarine, and land assets participating in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise sank the long-decommissioned ex-USS Racine (LST-1191) on 12 July in the Pacific Ocean. Ex-Racine was sent to the bottom at the end by aircraft from Strike Fighter Squadron 192 (VFA-192) at 8:45 p.m. in waters 15,000 feet deep, 55 nautical miles north of Kauaʻi, Hawaii.
The SINKEX featured live firing of surface-to-ship missiles by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) from a launcher on the back of a Palletized Load System (PLS) by the U.S. Army, fired from Barking Sands. This marks the first time the U.S. Army and JGSDF have participated in a sinking exercise during RIMPAC as well as the first participation by a Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon aircraft.
A torpedo from an unnamed submarine is shown at the 5:40 mark breaking her back. You can see her distinctive bow doors in several scenes, as well as her 1970s-era twin 3″/50 dual purpose gun mounts, still installed.
Racine, an 8,700-ton Newport-class of Landing Ship, Tank, was commissioned in 1971, decommissioned on 2 October 1993 as the Navy was getting out of the LST business and, after a planned transfer to Peru fell through, was set aside for use as a target while in inactive reserve at Pearl Harbor. She earned one battle star for her Vietnam service.
According to the Navy:
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 that people and marine mammals are not in an area where they could be harmed during the event.
Prior to the vessel being transported for participation in a SINKEX, each vessel is put through a rigorous cleaning process, including the removal of all polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), transformers and large capacitors, all small capacitors to the greatest extent practical, trash, floatable materials, mercury or fluorocarbon-containing materials and readily detachable solid PCB items. Petroleum is also cleaned from tanks, piping, and reservoirs.
A U.S. Navy environmental, safety and health manager and a quality assurance supervisor inspect the environmental remediation conducted in preparation of a vessel’s use in a SINKEX. Upon completion of the environmental remediation, the manager and supervisor provide signed certification of the work in accordance with EPA requirements.