Volley of missiles tears through a decommissioned US Navy ship during Pacific training exercise amid escalating tensions with China
- US Navy led 10 nations in Rim of the Pacific training exercise in seas near Hawaii
- Two weeks of drills culminated with the sinking of a decommissioned cargo ship
- Video showed USS Durham being torn apart by a volley of missiles and gunfire
- 22 ships, a submarine, and 5,300 personnel took part in the scaled-down drills
Dramatic video captured the moment a decommissioned ship was torn apart by a volley of missiles and shells at the culmination of a two-week naval drill.
The USS Durham, a cargo vessel which was taken out of in 1994, was hit by a US-made Harpoon and Hellfire missiles, French Exocet missiles, and five-inch shells fired from American, Australian, Canadian, and Bruneian ships.
The sinking marks the end of the biennial Rim of the Pacific naval training exercise – which is typically the largest anywhere in the world, but was scaled back this year due to coronavirus.
Even so, the two-week drill involved 22 ships, one submarine and 5,300 personnel from ten different countries, led by the US Navy.
The exercise took place in the waters off Hawaii, and involved combat maneuvers and live-fire drills.
All land-based exercises were called off, and ship-boarding drills were also abandoned to reduce the risk of transmitting coronavirus.
The sinking exercise took place on Saturday, with the Durham disappearing below the waves shortly after midnight on Sunday.
‘It’s really paramount that we maintain partnerships and alliances so we are ready as a team to face whatever crisis may arise’ Capt. Jay Steingold, director of this year’s RIMPAC exercise, said ahead of the drills, when ran from August 17 to 31.
‘RIMPAC, no matter what it looks like, will help us increase our ability to operate together and build that trust,’ Steingold said.
The exercise also takes place amid escalating tensions between the US and China in the Pacific, centered around the South China Sea.
In July, the US sailed two carrier groups led by the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan through the region in a ‘freedom of navigation’ exercise, designed as a snub to Beijing which claims control over the disputed waters.
As the exercise went ahead, Washington accused China of a ‘campaign of bullying’ in the region, targeting US partners including Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, all of whom claim rights to parts of the lucrative shipping territory.
China has also been rushing to modernize its navy to counter US forces in the region, with its first homemade aircraft carrier – the Type 002 – launched in 2017.
The country also has a new carrier under construction – the Type 003 – which is nearing completion at a dry dock in Shanghai.
Just this week, Beijing announced the launch of two new destroyers – the Type 055 and Type 052D – to replace its ageing Type 051 design.