Friday 13 July 2012: Not a bad day to fire a missile
By POWT MICHAEL JAMIESON
On a July Friday morning out in the crisp blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, HMNZS TE KAHA took her place north-west of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. To the uninformed observer, TE KAHA looked as if she was going about business as usual, but today was to be an occasion that she has only experienced three times in her 15-year career; firing one of our Sea Sparrow missiles from our Vertical Launching System (VLS).
This meant an intense period of maintenance to assure Command that the system would be ready in all respects for the big day. This included having the Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) and the five-inch gun prepped and loaded with live ammunition as a precaution in case the drone target we were to fire the missile at was damaged or malfunctioned in any way and go “rogue” (unable to be controlled and therefore become a danger to the ship and crew).
The morning of the firing rolled around and present in some people’s minds was the fact that the date was Friday the 13th. Not a bad omen on its own but the night before, the temperatures on the water tanks were reading 66.6° on all three gauges in the MCR and the number of live rounds loaded into the CIWS was 666; maybe a portent of things to come?
Any such fears were laid to rest pretty early in the proceedings as the five-inch gun and CIWS were test fired that morning before the VLS firing to ensure that they were good to go and be ready on standby.
The moment came for the whole serial to start and there was a “buzz” throughout the entire ship. A camera had been set up on CIWS deck to overlook the VLS deck and capture the firing in real-time. Some of the crew closed up in the OPS Room to view the monitors and others in 01F, where a live feed was set up on the projector and the eager spectators filling up the available space made for a movie-like atmosphere.
At his post in the OPS room, LET Hayden Linn’s finger was poised over the firing button, ready for the order: “Command Approved, Sea Sparrow.”
Down aft in a compartment adjacent to the VLS launcher casing, the maintainers were pensive, hoping that the missile, the only thing they had no control over, would exit the launcher as planned. Whilst only a telemetry missile (it had a transmission section rather than an explosive payload, for testing and tracking purposes) it still had 60 kgs-plus of explosive quantity in the rocket motor in order to give it at least 1400 lbs/ 635 kgs of thrust in less than 500 milliseconds.
With the countdown at zero and the target locked on, a sudden roar was heard; a trail of exhaust left in its wake, and the missile was on its way to intercept the target drone with everyone anxiously awaiting the result. The missile splashed down into the ocean on a trajectory that passed in front of the target drone; assessed kill.
After all the work and preparation put in it was an excellent result and a very successful evolution. This event was an example of what is achieved onboard, everyday; different branches and sections playing their part in order to achieve the desired results. Not one group that day could have achieved the success on its own, rather it was the culmination of everyone’s contribution and hard work that led to TE KAHA demonstrating the way it planned to continue throughout the remainder of RIMPAC and through to the end of the year.
PICTURE: LET Hayden Linn at his post in the OPS room of TE KAHA on Friday 13 July 2012 about to fire the Sea Sparrow missile.