Pummeled by US and British bombs, lanced by Martlets, and speared with salvos of sea-skimming missiles, the guided-missile frigate Boone didn’t go down without a fight, but still she sank.
Video footage released Friday, Sept. 23, revealed the last moments of the decommissioned Boone, an Oliver Hazzard Perry-class warship that fell victim 16 days earlier to a sinking exercise, or SINKEX, in the North Atlantic.
“Sinking exercises not only provide excellent opportunities to gain real world operational experience in long range maritime strikes but also demonstrate the collective power of our combined forces,” said Rear Adm. Oliver “Ollie” Lewis, US Naval Forces Europe-Africa’s director of maritime operations, in a prepared statement Friday. “Most importantly, gaining real world proficiency in the tactics, techniques and procedures we have developed and tested alongside our British allies not only validate our weapons systems but ultimately contribute to NATO alliance readiness.”
Boone’s SINKEX capped Atlantic Thunder 22, joint maneuvers that drew the US Navy's 6th Fleet, the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, the United Kingdom's Royal Navy and Air Force, and US Air Forces Europe to northern waters.
Combined forces from the US and United Kingdom fired upon and sank the decommissioned guided-missile frigate Boone (FFG-28), on Sept. 7, 2022, in the North Atlantic. Before the Boone was destroyed, workers stripped it of material that could potentially contaminate the ocean, officials said. US Navy photo.
Organizers said Boone’s last moments gave the armed forces of both nations a slew of firsts.
After British Wildcat helicopters launched from the Type 23 frigate Westminster stabbed Boone with Martlet air-to-surface missiles, the aircraft shot laser beams onto the smoking hull. They guided in Paveway IV bombs dropped by RAF Typhoon jets.
Wildcats had never done that before, Royal Navy officials said.
A US Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol plane from the “Grey Knights” of Patrol Squadron 46 hit Boone with a long-range anti-ship missile. That was followed by F-15E Strike Eagles from the “Panthers” of the US Air Force’s 494th Fighter Squadron unleashing maritime bombs on the vessel.
The guided-missile destroyer Arleigh Burke also slammed a Standard Missile-6 into Boone in the first anti-ship SM-6 attack in European waters.
Combined forces from the US and United Kingdom fired upon and sank the decommissioned guided-missile frigate Boone (FFG-28), on Sept. 7, 2022, in the North Atlantic. Before the Boone was destroyed, workers stripped it of material that could potentially contaminate the ocean, officials said. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.
To finish the warship off, the Westminster lobbed the first RGM-84D Harpoon Missile salvo by the Royal Navy in nearly two decades.
And Marine V-BAT 128 aerial drones flying above the frigate captured it all, from the opening attack to Boone's slow descent below the waves.
It was the first time V-BAT 128s had been launched from an Arleigh Burke-class warship.
Lost in all those firsts, however, was the proud legacy of the Boone, the 20th warship in the Oliver Hazzard Perry class of frigates.
The Navy decommissioned the vessel on Feb. 23, 2012, three decades after it entered service.
His Majesty’s Navy guided-missile frigate Westminster launches an AGM-84D Harpoon Missile, right, at the decommissioned US warship Boone, left, during a Sept. 7, 2022, exercise in the North Atlantic Ocean. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.
Named to honor Vice Adm. Joel Thompson Boone, a Medal of Honor recipient and America's most highly decorated medical officer in World War I, the frigate exited active service with a reputation as one of the best US warships patrolling the sea lanes.
“My first thought when I was watching the video was, ‘Oh, there she goes.’ I was hoping they could keep it, that maybe someone would buy it, and it could go on a little longer,” said retired Capt. Roy Love, who commanded the Boone in its decommissioning year.
Sailors didn’t like leaving Boone.
On its last international cruise — UNITAS 52 off Chile during the Southern Seas exercises in 2011 — retention rates were so high on the frigate that personnel had to be left back in Mayport, the warship’s Florida homeport.
On June 29, 2011, then-Cmdr. Roy Love, the commanding officer of the guided-missile frigate Boone, and then-Lt. Cmdr. Rob Speight, his executive officer, supervise as Boone approaches the Chilean navy oiler Almirante Montt for a replenishment-at-sea during the Pacific Ocean phase of UNITAS 52, a multinational exercise part of Southern Seas 2011. The Boone was decommissioned eight months later, with Speight in command. US Navy photo by Lt. Matthew Comer.
Every department head on Boone’s final tour later commanded a warship, a testament to the strength of its wardroom and the commitment of the enlisted sailors.
They not only prepped the aging vessel to be mothballed in the Philadelphia yard; they also spent the last weeks of Boone’s service showing it off in New York during the city’s Veterans Day celebrations.
And at sea, they made sure their embarked helicopter pilots retained their flight qualifications.
“Boone was old and had its problems, but it was always haze gray and underway. It was prepared to go, and it went,” Love told Coffee or Die.
In 2011, Love’s crew earned a coveted Battle “E” award from Destroyer Squadron 14.
“We really and truly built a family on board the Boone,” Love said. “My sailors would walk past other ships, and then they’d come up to me and say, ‘Sir, we’re the best ship.’”
Watch the SINKEX here.
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Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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