Condemned to a watery grave: Dramatic moment U.S. Navy ship is sunk by torpedo from Australian submarine during target practice
This is the dramatic moment a U.S. Navy ship is sunk by a torpedo from an Australian submarine during a military exercise in the Pacific Ocean.
The 12,100-ton vessel Kilauea was struck just below the bridge of the ship and promptly broke in two before sinking beneath the waves 40 minutes later.
The missile was fired by The Royal Australian Navy submarine HMAS Farncomb in what its commanding officer said was a 'significant milestone' for both himself and his 60-strong crew.
Commander Glen Miles said: 'This is the result of professionalism and teamwork. Those of us who drive these boats know that the Collins weapons systems are among the most capable in the world.'
Scroll down to watch the sinking in sequence
Sitting duck: Former U.S. Navy ship Kilauea, which was used as a target for a military exercise in the Pacific involving 22 nations
In the line of fire: A torpedo fired from Australian submarine HMAS Farncomb wings it way toward Kilauea as they test their missile systems
Ruptured: The ghost ship begins to break in half after being hit by the torpedo. The U.S. military quietly lifted the moratorium on Sinkex, short for sinking exercise, last year after a review of costs and environmental impacts of the program
Hole lot of trouble: Kilauea tilts to one side as water rushes though the hull. Two other inactive vessels will also be sent to a watery grave by torpedoes, bombs and other ordnance during the Rim of the Pacific naval exercises
Australia is among 22 nations attending the exercise that includes six submarines and 40 surface ships participating in a realistic maritime warfare scenario off the coast of Hawaii.
The U.S. Navy is resuming its practice of using old warships for target practice and sinking them in U.S. coastal waters after a nearly two-year moratorium spurred by environmental and cost concerns.
Two other inactive vessels — Niagara Falls and Concord — will also be sent to a watery grave by torpedoes, bombs and other ordnance during the Rim of the Pacific naval exercises, or RIMPAC.
The military quietly lifted the moratorium on Sinkex, short for sinking exercise, last year after a review of the requirements, costs, benefits and environmental impacts of the program, the Navy has said.
It is the first time since 2010 the Navy has used target practice to dispose of an old ship. Previous targets have ranged from small vessels to aircraft carriers such as the USS America
Direct hit: The U.S. ship breaks in two after being struck just below the bridge in what the submarine's commanding officer said was a significant milestone for the crew
Controversial: Conservation groups argue that the ghost ships should be recycled at a ship-breaking facility over concerns about the long-lasting effects of toxic pollutants on board
'Important training': The Navy says Sinkex offers valuable live-fire training for times of war and provides clean vessels for at-sea exercises
It is the first time since 2010 the Navy has used target practice to dispose of an old ship. Previous targets have ranged from small vessels to aircraft carriers such as the USS America, which was more than three football fields long.
Conservation groups argue that the ghost ships should instead be recycled at a ship-breaking facility. Concerns about the long-lasting effects of toxic pollutants onboard the ships spurred a lawsuit by those groups to force the Environmental Protection Agency to better catalog and regulate Sinkex. The case, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, is ongoing.
The groups said they did not plan to seek an injunction to stop the Navy from restarting the exercises.
'We are appealing to the Navy to continue their moratorium at least until our case is heard,' said Colby Self of the environmental group Basel Action Network, which joined the Sierra Club in suing the EPA.
'After the vessels hit the sea-bottom, it will be a little too late to redress damages to our precious marine resources.'
Legal wrangle: Campaigners have filed a lawsuit to force the Environmental Protection Agency to better catalog and regulate Sinkex. The case, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, is ongoing
Monitoring environmental effects: The U.S. Navy must file an annual report with EPA estimating the amount of pollutants are carried by the vessels
Potential threat: High levels of the chemical PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, which are carried by the vessels are believed to increase the risk of certain cancers in humans
Going, going, gone: The back-end of the vessel makes a slow descent beneath the surface in what was deemed a successful live-firing exercise
Condemned: The last part of the ship sinks beneath the waves in a swirl of water. The Navy must conduct the exercises at least 50 nautical miles from shore and in water at least 6,000 feet deep
The Navy says Sinkex offers valuable live-fire training for times of war and provides clean vessels for at-sea, live-fire exercises. The ships can be targeted from the air, ocean's surface or underwater, with the results aiding the acquisition, planning and design of future vessel classes and systems, the Navy said.
For decades, the Navy destroyed the vessels with little or no oversight. Then in 1999, the EPA ordered the Navy to better document toxic waste left on the doomed ships while removing as much of the material as possible. In return, the EPA exempted the military from federal pollution laws that prohibit any such dumping in the ocean.
The Navy is still in charge of estimating the amount of pollutants onboard after the ships are prepared for sinking. In addition, the Navy must file an annual report with EPA estimating the amount of PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, carried by the vessels.
High levels of the chemical are believed to increase the risk of certain cancers in humans. It was banned by the U.S. in 1979 in part because it is long-lasting and accumulates throughout the food chain.
Good job done: The periscope of HMAS Farncomb, on the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) off Hawaii, moments after a successful Sink Exercise (SINKEX) at RIMPAC
Back in dock: HMAS Farncomb's commanding officer said the submarine's weapons systems are among the most capable in the world
Vice Admiral Gerald Beaman, commander of the combined task force running the exercises, previously that each ship will be stripped of PCBs and other contaminants such as asbestos, as required by the Navy's agreement with EPA.
'There are severe restrictions that are placed on any hulk of that nature,' Beaman said during a news conference at Pearl Harbor, flanked by commanders from participating countries.
The Navy must also conduct the exercises at least 50 nautical miles from shore and in water at least 6,000 feet deep. Beaman said decisions about sinking the ships versus recycling them are made outside the scope of the exercises.
A previous review of records from the past 12 years found the Navy got rid of most of its old ships over that time through target practice. Records show the Navy sunk 109 peeling, rusty U.S. warships off the coasts of California, Hawaii, Florida and other states during that period.
Navy documents show some of the ships it sunk contained an estimated 500 pounds of PCBs. During the same time, 64 ships were recycled at one of six approved domestic ship-breaking facilities.
RIMPAC, which lasts for five weeks, features training exercises for thousands of military personnel from 22 nations.
Dramatic 28 picture sequence shows the US Navy Ship Kilauea as it is sunk by a torpedo from HMAS Farncomb