U.S., Thai Navies Conduct Live-Fire Practice at Sea

Tuesday, June 27, 2006
A ship-deployed surface target (SDST) was launched from USS Tortuga (LSD 46) during a gunnery exercise with the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) June 23, in the Gulf of Thailand. The live-fire target practice was the first major event during day one of exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training’s (CARAT) Thailand at-sea phase. CFAO is embarked aboard Tortuga during CARAT to provide targets for gunnery exercises. CFAO also launched a target drone from the Tortuga June 24 for an RTN tracking run. CARAT is an annual series of bilateral maritime training exercises between the United States and six Southeast Asia nations designed to build relationships and enhance the operational readiness of the participating forces. Thailand is the second phase of the summer-long exercise series. The at-sea phase is scheduled to end June 25. The SDST is a SeaDoo jet ski that is directed by remote-control from the ship’s bridge wing. The line-of-sight, remote control system has a range of about 12,000 feet, Aguilar said. CFAO has two SDSTs on board Tortuga. From the bridge wing, where there’s a bird’s-eye view, three personnel are required for the remote-control operation - a mission commander to oversee the event; a spotter to keep visual contact on the SDST; and the remote control operator to control the SDST. The SDST tows a 10-foot-long rubber banana boat which serves as the target. The banana boat is towed behind the SDST on a 600-foot line. “We provide a service. Otherwise the gunners would simply be shooting holes in the water,” said Aviation Electrician’s Mate 1st Class (AW) Neil Pass. “If the banana boat gets totally shot up, the gunners use the SDST as a target with a designed off-set so they don’t shoot the jet ski.” CFAO Targets brought 10 banana boats to be used throughout the exercise series.

The remote-controlled jet ski can be operated in two modes, rudder and heading. “In the rudder, or manual mode, we actively direct the jet ski with the remote control joystick,” Aguilar said. “In the heading mode we direct the jet ski to a specific heading.” During the exercise, four of the 10 combined USN/RTN CARAT task group ships – Tortuga, USS Crommelin (FFG 37), and Thai navy ships HTMS Taksin (422) and HTMS Ratanakosin, shot at the banana boat with a variety of weaponry including 50 cal. and 25 mm machine guns while the SDST made two parallel passes at 1,300 yards. “We practice like we fight,” said Chief Gunner’s Mate David Schwartz, Tortuga’s small arms marksman instructor. “We learn our line of sight when we practice. This is how we fine tune ourselves for when the real fight comes along.” Besides Tortuga and Crommelin, other U.S. CARAT task group ships that participated in the gunnery exercise included USS Hopper (DDG 70) and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCGC Sherman (WHEC 720). USS Salvor (ARS 52) is also part of the U.S. CARAT task group. The U.S. CARAT task group is under the leadership of Commander, Destroyer Squadron 1 Capt. Al Collins.

By Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Melinda Larson, Comander Task Force 73 Public Affairs NavNews

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