British RAF fighters just destroyed a US Navy ship — here's why

A decommissioned U.S. Navy frigate was blasted to smithereens by a variety of anti-ship weaponry during a rare, sophisticated live-fire exercise off the coast of Scotland.
Christopher McFadden

Aircraft from the Royal Air Force's (RAF) 41 Test and Evaluation Squadron based at RAF Coningsby participated in a long-planned live fire exercise with their Royal Navy and American counterparts, according to an official press release from the RAF.

The attack was part of "Exercise Atlantic Thunder 22" from September 1–12, with the main exercise, including the SINKEX (abbreviation for sinking exercise), taking place on September 7th, 2022, in waters off the northwest coast of Scotland.

British RAF fighters just destroyed a US Navy ship — here's why
RAF Typhoon being prepared for operations.

The U.S.-led "Atlantic Thunder" marked the U.K. Royal Navy's first participation in an exercise of this nature in 18 years, according to a statement issued by the military today. The same press release included information on the RAF Typhoons' historic participation in a SINKEX, which was also a noteworthy rarity in the Atlantic Ocean as most similar exercises take place in the Pacific.

However, it appears that just one of the three Typhoons from the RAF's No. 41 Squadron could deliver weapons to the former USS Boone. This was the first time a decommissioned cruiser was utilized as a maritime target, and an RAF Typhoon delivered a live bomb.

The target, a decommissioned frigate, the USS Boone (an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate), was the subject of mock attacks by three RAF Typhoon fighters. The training ship assault was also joined by the Royal Navy's HMS Westminster, a Wildcat helicopter, a US P-8 Poseidon, F-15E Strike Eagles, and the USS Arleigh Burke, using various powerful weapons.

You can view the footage from the attack in the video below.

Another first for the exercise was using a British Wildcat HMA2 helicopter from the 815 Naval Air Squadron's MX-15HDi electro-optical/infrared sensor turret to direct the Typhoon's 500-pound Paveway IV dual-mode bombs onto the target.

The same Wildcat had also just fired its own Martlet air-to-surface missiles when this occurred. Once more, rather than firing at specially constructed targets, the helicopter was using a cruiser as its target at sea. More information about the Martlet missile's capabilities may be found here.

Nevertheless, it is primarily intended for use against asymmetric targets like small, fast naval craft, boats that act as "suicide drones," or other unmanned surface ships, particularly those that operate in swarms.

Before the U.S. ship could be used as a target in this fashion, extensive preparations were made over a long period to ensure the exercise was carried out in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, including the removal of dangerous compounds and contaminants.

The RAF's 41st Squadron has a long and illustrious history

Number 41 Squadron, also known as the RAF's Typhoon Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES), is headquartered at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire.

The squadron was created in 1916 as a ground assault and fighter squadron on the Western Front of the First World War as a part of the Royal Flying Corps. No. 41 Squadron. This unit was later disbanded in 1919 as part of the post-war drawdown. It was reorganized as an RAF squadron in 1923 and continued on domestic duty until 1935, when it was sent to Aden during the Abyssinian Crisis.

British RAF fighters just destroyed a US Navy ship — here's why
RAF Typhoon.

RAF 

The squadron operated Supermarine Spitfire fighters during the Second World War and saw combat over Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain in the early years of the conflict. Before the squadron was relocated to the continent following the Normandy landings, combat operations were flown over German-occupied Europe from Britain between 1941 and 1944.

The squadron helped the Allies move into Germany in 1944–1945, and it remained part of the occupation force after hostilities ended in mid-1946. The squadron used a variety of jet aircraft in the fighter, reconnaissance, and interceptor roles after the war, disbanding and reforming multiple times.

The squadron's new duty as the Fast Jet & Weapons Operational Evaluation Unit was implemented in 2006. Until 2010, it served in this capacity before transitioning to the RAF's Test & Evaluation Squadron.

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