As the Us Navy updates its fleet, some of the older ship platforms will simply not be able to keep up with advancement. The most obvious war ship platform doomed to be obsolete is the Oliver Hazard Perry Class Guided Fast Frigate, or the Perry Class FFG. In the last 40 years or so, the USN has commissioned 51 Perry Class FFG’s that have sailed the high seas on missions ranging from carrier defense to anti-narcotics operations, to (its bread and butter mission) anti-submarine operations. This is now only but six months from coming to an official end, once the last few are sold off or scrapped. Rather than talk about this platform’s demise, I rather talk about life aboard these ships and why “Frigaters” consider themselves to be the last of the true Naval Sailors.
Walking down the pier, you feel like there must be a mistake. You see the destroyers and the carriers and cruisers, but no frigate. As you get further down, you see it. A “ship” that might as well be a row boat in the shadow of the carrier’s superstructure. As you climb up the brow and request permission to board, you wonder if this ship is even seaworthy, as ten foot swells seem as though they could drown the vessel and sink her to Davy Jones.
After spending some time in port, you finally are ordered out to sea and you are about to see what this ship can do, if anything. Steaming out of the protected harbor, the waves seem to throw your ship around like a rag doll and the frames creek and groan as it fights the sea. As you push further down the coast, rough seas slam into the bow and provide a roller coaster ride from hell. But, by the time it is over, you have found your sea legs and move like a mountain goat down the passageways, one foot on the deck, the other on the bulkhead. Sailors from carriers will come aboard, having been sailors for years, and learn that they have never truly developed sea legs. You laugh as they stumble through the ship, green in the face, while you saunter to your work station.
As you approach your Area of Responsibility (AOR), you start up your sensors. Though you tested them a few days ago, something is wrong now. The system does not come on. You find the problem part and head to supply for a replacement. What does supply tell you? The part you need has not been made for ten years and they do not have one on board. The whole mission depends on that system and there is no way to fix it. You go back to your equipment and start thinking. MacGyver like inspiration slaps you in the head and you figure out how to make your own replacement part, get it installed, and get to work.
Rather than be a systems manager who is told what component is broken by a computer and slapping in the new part, Frigaters troubleshoot and fix their gear, even if they have to “manufacture” the parts themselves to keep the ship war ready. Rather than glide across the sea in ship that has a machine shop large enough to house an entire frigate, you learn to run to your battle station as the decks pitch and roll.
As these ships fade off into the history books, sailors will never be given the chance to grow proper sea legs, learn true trouble shooting skills and will only be given the slightest chance at truly understanding what improvisation and adaptation are really about.
It was a sad day when my ship, USS Ford (FFG54, pictured at top and above), was decommissioned. It will be an even sadder day when the last FFG shuts down her turbines for the last time under the watchful eye of an American Sailor. Though they were small and outdated, nothing beats the family you gained by being one of the frigate riders.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.