an Iranian mine almost sunk USS Samuel B. Roberts, not
resulting in any deaths but requiring some Sailors to
be evacuated for medical treatment. That ship was just
decommissioned last year. And Simpson, the last frigate
of the fleet to be retired, sank an Iranian gunboat in 1988
with Standard Missile- 1 after it came under attack.
But the world certainly has changed a great deal in
the decades since the Pentagon rushed the ships to the
fleet. Now, the LCS represents more of what the Navy
is focused on: littoral operations, minesweeping, maritime security, counter-piracy, surface warfare and ASW,
the latter of which the Perry did somewhat, but the
LCS will do more extensively.
That explains why, unlike with most programs
where the Navy conducts a service life-extension to
keep an old asset around while a new one is being
built, there was no such effort to keep Perry-class frigates in the fleet.
“There was no sense that we had to do some sort
of one-for-one replacement for the Perry class,” Clark
said. “At that point, it had largely been relegated to
the security role. The LCS could perform some of that
to the degree it needed to be done. The LCS will also
replace MCM [mine countermeasures] ships and pro-
vide some ASW capability in the littorals to counter the
diesel sub threat.”
Today, the Navy is thinking more about the threat
to surface vessels with the rise of the Russian and
Chinese militaries, Clark said, and that might be why
the Department of Defense opted to start referring to
future LCSs as frigates.
“We’re building the LCS to do one mission at a
time, and an escort vessel needs to do multiple mis-
sions at one time,” he said. “That’s what’s led the DoD
[Department of Defense] to drive toward a frigate idea
that would have a multimission capability at the same
time. It will have some of the ASW capabilities, and
will act somewhat similar to the Perry-class ASW, and
it would be able to at least defend itself.”
Although the Navy felt it did not need to extend
the lives of Perry-class frigates until the LCS was fully
online, the LCS certainly cannot get here soon enough.
When the Navy does have an escort mission today, it
uses Arleigh Burke-class destroyers to do the job. But
there are not many destroyers available; about 50 of
them are tied up in carrier strike groups, plus another
20 doing ballistic missile defense missions, leaving
only about 15 to conduct escort missions. And that
is not mentioning the overkill of using a $2 billion
destroyer to do the job of a $500 million frigate.
The move to the LCS makes the Navy a little bit less
flexible, meaning the service is gambling a bit that full-scale war will not break out.
“Right now, the Navy’s thought is they’re going to
use destroyers, and if they get into a war, they’ll build
a bunch of frigates,” Clark said. “Unfortunately, it’s
not 1940, so you can’t build a bunch of ships quickly
because of the level of sophistication.” n
19 WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / JUNE 2016
The guided-missile frigate USS Simpson returns to Naval Station Mayport, Fla., June 14, 2015, after completing its
seven-month deployment to the U.S. Fifth and Sixth Fleet areas of operation. The deployment was the final one for the
Oliver Hazard Perry class of ships. Simpson was decommissioned Sept. 29.