US Navy amphibious assault ship launches NATO’s Sea Sparrow missile

U.S. Navy’s amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) launched the NATO Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missile to engage a target drone during a fleet firing exercise.

The missile was launched on September 18 off the coast of the U.S. territory of Guam during the biennial Valiant Shield exercise.

Senior Chief Fire Controlman Joshua Patat, Bonhomme Richard’s combat systems maintenance manager, said the launch was conducted to test the ship’s self-defense capabilities, as well as watchstanders’ abilities to respond to an anti-ship cruise missile threat.

“It’s been five years since the last time we fired our NATO system and it operated perfectly,” said Patat. “I’ve seen four NATO launches in my career, and I have to say this was the best and smoothest one I’ve ever seen. The drone ran its course as we planned, the system tracked it the whole way, and NATO killed it just as the system was designed to do.”

Bonhomme Richard’s crew pepared the equipment and made sure all the launchers were properly maintained. Additionally, the fire controlmen ran training scenarios to practice.

“I was tracking the drone as it was coming in on our target video,” said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Amanda Bradberry, one of Bonhomme Richard’s NATO technicians. “Watching it actually explode when it hit the target was really cool. None of us have ever seen that before and [it] was a great new experience.”

According to Patat, Bradberry, and Hill, the launch proved the system operates as designed. It also provided FCs with the opportunity to show the crew what they are trained to do.

Bonhomme Richard, flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is currently participating in VS16, a U.S.-only, field training exercise (FTX) with a focus on integration of joint training among U.S. forces.