USS CARL VINSON, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 got a chance to step up their training June 17 during a hulk exercise (HULKEX) conducted approximately 200 miles off the coast of Southern California.
Thirty-two foot, decommissioned U.S. Coast Guard Cutter White Bush was tugged south from Bremerton, Wash., and then released June 17 as a target for live-fire strike training. By late afternoon, the buoy tender was sinking to the bottom of the Pacific.
"This was definitely a good deal for us," said Lt. Cmdr. Mike Miller, CVW-9 anti-surface warfare officer. "It's a great opportunity. You get a realistic, life-size target, and you get to employ weapons that we don't normally get much opportunity to train with."
Two HARM missiles from Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 138, one Hellfire Missile from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 8 and 20 MK-83 1,000-pound bombs from several strike fighter squadrons were used on the retired coast guard vessel.
"We put the hole in it that ultimately...led to its sinking," said Lt. j.g. Rick Hess, an HS-8 helicopter pilot.
The HULKEX was originally scheduled to last through six launch-and-recovery evolutions, but White Bush sank in just three.
"Our [Carrier Air Wing commander's] motto is 'simple plan; execute it flawlessly,'" said Lt. Cmdr Michael Angelopoulos, an S-3B Viking pilot from Sea Control Squadron (VS) 33. "As expected, that plan went very well, and it sank."
As the surface warfare lead, Angelopoulos and the S-3B crew coordinated the HULKEX evolution and spearheaded the area's sea and air clearance prior to the live fire.
"We have the best surface search radar, and with extra people in the plane, we have good situational awareness," said Angelopoulos. "We spent a lot of time sanitizing the area, making sure that there were no civilians or marine mammals out there."
Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 112 and Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 146 assisted VS-33 in range clearance for the event.
"To get a weapon on a target that will fuse, blow up and sink that target takes a lot more than just a pilot's skill," said Miller.
From the assembly of the weapon to the maintenance of each aircraft, Miller emphasized that no combined carrier and air wing evolution, such as the HULKEX, would succeed without the dedication and teamwork of every Sailor aboard.
"This is the business end of Naval aviation - putting bombs on target to blow up things," he said.
Carl Vinson and CVW-9 are currently conducting training and operations off the coast of Southern California.
For related news, visit the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn70.