The U.S. Navy Wants to Bring Back Some Old Frigates (That Can’t Fight)

David Axe

Security, Asia

A fatal flaw. 

The U.S. Navy Wants to Bring Back Some Old Frigates (That Can’t Fight)

The U.S. Navy is seriously considering reactivating as many as seven recently-decommissioned Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates in order to quickly boost the size of the U.S. Navy’s surface fleet.

But the Navy would not significantly modernize the recommissioned frigates, nor add heavy weaponry, Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said.

Rather than sending them into harm’s way in the Middle East or into the crowded, dangerous waters of the Western Pacific, the Navy would assign the 4,100-ton Perrys to the Caribbean in “a limited drug-interdiction mode,” Spencer said.

In a drug-interdiction role, the frigates could free up guided-missile destroyers and Littoral Combat Ships for more high-end missions. But Congress has been skeptical of adding lightly-armed warships to the fleet

The Navy acquired 51 Perrys between 1977 and 1989. During the Cold War, the frigates functioned as convoy escorts. With SM-1 anti-air missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles and two anti-submarine helicopters, the Perrys were well-rounded vessels.

Is It Time to Bring Back the Battleships?

And durable — this despite their aluminum superstructures. In 1987, USS Stark survived two hits by Iraqi Exocet missiles. USS Samuel B. Roberts struck an Iranian mine in 1988 but also survived. During a 2016 live-fire exercise, the decommissioned frigate Thach absorbed hits by four Harpoons, several Hellfire and Maverick missiles, a torpedo and two bombs. It took 12 hours for Thach to sink.

But the Navy let the frigate fleet languish in favor of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. In 2000, the sailing branch began removing the Perrys‘ missile launchers, leaving the vessels with just their guns for self-defense.

In their later years, the frigates mostly deployed to Latin America for counterdrug patrols, although at least two vessels carried Fire Scout drone helicopters and sailed along the African coast to support Special Operations Forces. The last active ship in the class, USS Simpson, decommissioned in September 2015.

Are Submarines Almost Obsolete?

Navy officials floated the idea of recommissioning some of the Perrys around the time of Pres. Donald Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. Trump had embraced a late push by Pres. Barack Obama’s outgoing Navy secretary Ray Mabus to quickly grow the fleet from roughly 280 frontline warships to as many as 355.

Plans began to…

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