The decommissioned frigate USS McClusky (FG 41) sinks after being struck with live fire during exercise RIMPAC. (U.S. Navy)

PEARL HARBOR - Live fire from a ship and an aircraft participating in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise sank the decommissioned frigate USS McClusky (FFG 41) in waters 15,000 feet deep, 55 nautical miles north of Kauai, Hawaii, July 19.

The sinking exercise (SINKEX) provided participating units the opportunity to gain proficiency and confidence in their weapons and systems through realistic training that could not be duplicated in simulators.

“This SINKEX was invaluable for exercising our interoperability as a combined maritime force, and also demonstrating and testing the tremendous warfighting skills of our men and women,” said RIMPAC Combined Forces Maritime Component Commander Chilean Navy Commodore Pablo Niemann.

Former Navy vessels used in SINKEXs, referred to as hulks, are prepared in strict compliance with regulations prescribed and enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency under a general permit the Navy holds pursuant to the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act.

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 people and marine mammals are not in an area where they could be harmed during the event.

Prior to 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 Navy environmental, safety and health manager and a quality assurance supervisor inspects 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.

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.

Twenty-five nations, 46 ships, five submarines, and more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 27 to Aug. 2 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2018 is the 26th exercise in the series that began in 1971.