The United States Navy has a long history of using decommissioned ships for weapons development testing and fleet training exercises. The SINKEX program, which stands for Sink Exercise, provides numerous benefits to the Navy. The purpose of SINKEX is to satisfy requirements for ship survivability or weapons lethality evaluation, major joint or multi-national exercises, or the evaluation of significant new multi-unit tactics or tactics and weapons combinations.
The Navy Inactive Ships Office (SEA 21I) makes ships available to the active fleet for live fire exercises that have been prepared in accordance with EPA guidelines. Fleet sink exercises are conducted in compliance with the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act. Each ship provided is put through a rigorous cleaning process, which includes the removal of all PCB transformers and large capacitors, all small capacitors to the greatest extent practical, trash, floatable materials, mercury or fluorocarbon containing materials, and readily detachable solid PCB items. Petroleum products are also cleaned from tanks, piping and reservoirs.
Afterwards, the Navy conducts a thorough inspection of the vessel by qualified inspectors and marine chemists to ensure that it has met the environmental requirements.
The SINKEX program has afforded opportunities for air, surface and subsurface forces to integrate, plan, and execute firing and tactics plans, thereby enhancing combat readiness. The program also allows the Navy to have more opportunities to train with multi-national forces, thus reinforcing international cooperation. Additionally, live-fire exercises are used to conduct weapons effect testing to assist in acquisition planning and design of future ship classes. Test information gathered from the SINKEX program has been important for future vessel development.