By Dave Werner
Naval History and Heritage Command
USS Taylor (FFG 50) alumnus ’89-‘92
It’s the beginning of the end for the Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigate (FFG), and it’s hard for me to accept it. The tide of time is ebbing quickly, and harbingers this day would come haven’t made it any easier. Wednesday is the last time an American frigate will deploy (with all due respect and reverence to America’s Ship of State).
USS Kauffman (FFG 59) will be deployed to the 4th Fleet area of responsibility primarily in support of Operation Martillo. The joint, international law enforcement and military operation includes U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner nations, and targets illicit trafficking in the waters off Central America. When she returns later in the year, she – like all the other FFGs remaining in the inventory – will decommission.
It’s not a rational reluctance to accept that we’re putting these ships down after decades of service – but when a Sailor’s spent their formative years on one, it’s hard to let go. My first assignment as a naval officer was spent on the USS Taylor (FFG 50). You can read the unabridged version about my first tour where I grew up in the Navy – in a hurry. My experience is not unlike that experienced by FFG crewmembers thousands of times over in the last (nearly) 40 years.
The Perry Class Frigate has served proudly and honorably since the 1977.
Frigate Sailors and crews have always performed any mission assigned to them with exceptional gusto, and in my humble opinion they have always punched far above their weight. They have been the Navy’s true utility infielder. There’s no argument that the ship and her 200-man crew have been a true bargain in and for the 20th century. The reality is that the 21st century maritime environment, and America’s ability to combat threats successfully within it, demands 21st century delivery systems.
Look, there’s no bigger romantic than me. But the Navy must make intelligent decisions about how to best meet the nation’s security needs – for the next 40 years. New ships like JHSV, LCS, Mobile Landing Platforms and Afloat Forward Staging Bases deliver the capabilities today’s environment demands. The Perry Class Frigate has proven that presence does matter. But we can’t operate forward with an antiquated platform armed with combat systems that are no longer a match for today’s increasingly pervasive and lethal smart (and getting smarter) weapons. Our Sailors’ interests – and those of our nation – are becoming increasingly vulnerable.
America’s Navy should never be in a fair fight. So I’m letting go.
Fair winds and following seas my Frigate shipmates. I’d ask all Perry Class veterans to please join me in toasting this last great voyage of a venerable ship class. And Godspeed to the USS Kauffman crew and their families – we’re with you as you sail forward and finally, and join our proud ranks.