Home » Budget Industry » CNO Richardson: Perry Frigates Only Inactive Hulls Navy Considering Returning to Active Fleet; DDG Life Extension Study Underway

CNO Richardson: Perry Frigates Only Inactive Hulls Navy Considering Returning to Active Fleet; DDG Life Extension Study Underway

Sailors assigned to the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Elrod (FFG-55) pose for a photo in front of the ship before her decommissioning ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk in 2015. US Navy Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. – While all options are on the table in the Navy’s push to field a 355-ship fleet, when it comes to reactivating ships in the inactive fleet, the service is realistically only looking at seven decommissioned Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates (FFG-7), Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told USNI News on Thursday.

Since the December reveal of the Navy’s new fleet size goal, calls have come from some analysts to reactivate three older Ticonderoga-class cruisers (CG-47) that have been sidelined for more than a dozen years or the conventionally powered Kitty Hawk (CV-63) aircraft carrier.

In the 1980s, the service reactivated ships from the inactive fleet as part of the Reagan Administration’s drive to a 600-ship Navy – most notably the four Iowa-class battleships (BB-61) from World War II.

The Navy has about 50 warships in the inactive fleet, but so far only the Perrys are seriously being studied for reactivation, Richardson said following a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He first mentioned the possibility of reactivating Perrys earlier this week during a presentation at the Naval War College.

“Bringing those back – we’re examining it and we don’t want to overlook any options, but really on the face of it it’s going to be very complicated,” he said.
“As a ship class comes to the end of its life, it’s not like we’re pouring a lot of money into keeping that class modernized. Although the last of the frigates were decommissioned a couple of years ago, we’ve really stopped modernizing far before that because we just wanted to bring it to a graceful end and there were better places to spend our money at the time.”

Rather, the Navy is looking at what it could do now to extend the life of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers (DDG-51) past an expected service life of 35 years, in a more realistic bid to keep up the fleet size.

The DDG life extension plan would prompt a reexamination of key decisions the Navy has made over the last few years on the mid-life modernization of the Burke class.

The Navy elected not to modernize the Aegis Combat Systems of some of the earlier Burkes as a cost-savings measure and instead just executed hull, mechanical and engineering upgrades.

The Baseline 9 combat system upgrade replaces the 1980s-era computer infrastructure of the combat system with faster and more easily upgraded commercial servers, an additional signal processor that allows the ship to fight both traditional air and ballistic missile threats, and a networking capability that allows data to flow from the upgraded destroyer to other ships and aircraft.

How extensively the Navy will take a second look at the DDG upgrade schedule or combat system modernization plan is also being evaluated, Richardson said.

“It’s the same cost-benefit tradeoff [as the frigates]. You take a look at how much more life might we get, and if it’s a significant period of time then it might be worth investing in the combat system to modernize and we’ll take it from there,” he said.
“Everything has to be on the table, and I want to understand the entire decision space and that entire landscape.”

  • FelixA9

    A shame the USN was in such an obscene hurry to torpedo the entire Spruance class. They’d have been excellent ships to bring back.

  • DaSaint

    Translation: He’d rather spend the money on the Burkes than the Perrys.

    Burkes have an AAW capability, and the Perrys have very limited capabilities.

  • Marcd30319

    I would recommend bring back all Supply-class AOE to active service to increase the range of carrier strike groups.

    • Papasan Pauly

      Great point. Why not just build a new design based on a modified John Lewis T-AO? Sure seems a lot cheaper than operating a Lewis & Clark T-AKE and Henry J. Kaiser T-AO in tandem.

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    Russia is building some good looking frigates.
    Perhaps they can help the US?
    Better than waiting the 20 years it will take for the USN to come up with a replacement.

    • tiger

      I think the Germans are the way to go. Bloom & Voss knows how make great ships.

  • Rob C.

    It’s impractical. Especially if they don’t add missiles back. There better off building that export version of the Freedom Class (frigate size ship). Perry without the Mk 13 launcher is just severely under armed Pt boat.

  • Curtis Conway

    The upgraded Australian FFG-7s have already been underway and function. Full advantage of the treasure invested by the Australian government should take place defending freedom in all hemispheres. Purchasing these valuable assets and engineering models should be seriously considered, and use them as the base for upgrade activity for every FFG-7 coming out of mothball. Upgrade the SPQ-9 to the “B” model, install the Mk41 ESSM cells, and let us install a non-rotating 3D AESA radar to provide the air picture and fire control for the missiles. The Mk13s can be refurbished and upgraded to handle the SM-6 (without the Mk72 booster). We can install the Mk92 STIR for illumination and backup fire control function. Upgrade the SLQ-32 with SEWIP. Put the TACTAS back on board, and we have something of consequence. These Small Surface Combatants should be a baseline capability for improvement on the new and improved Small Surface Combatants yet to be decided upon.

    The new and improved Small Surface Combatant should be built in numbers greater than 50 to replace these FFG-7s in the future, and further populate the fleet. These new SSC vessels should be an Aegis-lite like capability using a non-rotating 3D radar (hopefully the 9-RMA AN/SPY-6(V)), and engagement capability of Tactical Ballistic Missiles and Supersonic ASCMs at a minimum. Two versions (AAW-centric & ASW-centric) should be constructed. The AAW-centric version should have boats aft like the National Security Cutter, and more ESSMs in Mk41 VLS cells populated the ship on both sides in space made available via a sacrificed helo hangar. The ASW-centric version should employ a Towed Array & Variable Depth Sonars in place of the boats aft, and employ a second helicopter or two (2) Fire Scouts.

    • Papasan Pauly

      Really good points. While the Perry’s were great ships for their missions I’m just not seeing their utility in current and emerging high threat scenarios even with the great upgrades you’re suggesting. As for the new SSC’s that’s a different story. Really great ideas that should work if they have good defensive capabilities to help insure crew and group survival. You know the old adage “We can replace the ships but we can’t replace the Sailors.”

      • Curtis Conway

        With our discussed upgrades the current FFG-7 platform will be a good little (survivable) fighter.

        • Papasan Pauly

          If they do bring them back I’m sure hoping Navy Leadership plays to their strengths and go with old Hand’s like you ideas. You Bubbas made it work so better to play to your experience rather than engineers’ ideas of how it should be.

          • Curtis Conway

            Those engineers of which you speak, gaming and planning based upon that game, that turned out to be fiction . . . after the expenditure of $ Billions have not served our Navy, or our Country well.

        • Hugh

          The Sinkex at a recent Rimpac demonstrated the the FFG as a significantly robust vessel.

          • Lazarus

            No ammo or fuel aboard and in calm waters.

          • Curtis Conway

            I wonder how fast an LCS would sink under the same conditions, in the same sea state?

    • DaSaint

      Disagree somewhat with your first paragraph. Agree with your second.

      Australia had to put it’s resources into limited quantities, so it made sense for them, as they needed them until their new ships were delivered. Could we upgrade them? Sure. VLS for ESSM, Harpoon, Mk92 STIR, and a new rotating air warfare radar makes sense. I’d do maybe 6 of the best remaining hulls, if we can get them back into service in less than a year.

      I do agree that the new SSC should look to this as a baseline. My SSC would be 32 VL ESSM, a 76mm gun, and a Phalanx CIWS forward, 8 SSMs, 6 (concealed) Mk.32 torps, and a further 16 ESSM all amidships, and Twin helos plus 2 Fire Scouts. a Sea Ram launcher, and a Towed Array aft. Sensor suites would be a Non-rotating non-Aegis radar (sorry, no BMD) and LM Combatass-21 FCS, with a sophisticated ESM/ECM suite, tailored for cyber warfare. A large mission bay would allow for Special Forces and/or other flexible missions, and would utilize side and/or rear doors for access directly into a small well deck for access into the water.Propulsion would be 2 Gas Turbines and 4 Diesels feeding into an electrical system for shipboard and propulsion purposes.

      As far as numbers are concerned, I think that would depend, but certainly not fewer than 30.

      • Curtis Conway

        I’m with you for the most part. “…Non-rotating non-Aegis radar (sorry, no BMD)…”. This is where we differ. If a new surface combatant platform does not at least have the ability to counter the attack of a Tactical Ballistic Missile then our new platform will be ineffective. As we write these comments the US Army is burning dollars trying to turn TACMS into an anti-ship weapon . . . which is what I am talking about. We are late to this party on this one. There are many on the weapons market already, and can be had by many for not a lot of dollars. A US destroyer was recently attacked by such systems off of Yemen not to long ago, and the Persian Gulf, and it approaches are not the only place where such systems exist. North Korea is only ONE location where such threats exist, and this list is growing, and those missiles with which our ships must contend, and the complexity of their systems, and lethality is growing day-by-day. No . . . if one wishes to survive in the modern battle space we cannot just say the Destroyer will take care of it. When on a “Presence” mission ‘Independent Steaming’ in what is characterized as a lower threat area, that threat can literally change over night with one truckload of capability. If I did not make my argument in your mind, then we will just have to differ on this point. I will not subscribe to sending our sailors ANYWHERE and not give them the tools with which to defend themselves, and complete their mission, and I cannot fathom what those other mindsets are thinking when they INSIST that we must do so.

        • Hugh

          Consider the CEA radars on the RAN ANZAC Class.

          • Curtis Conway

            Yes, but like the 9-RMA AN/SPY-6(V) better. However, will take whatever we can get.

    • Hugh

      The RAN has 3 spare shipsets of upgrades for FFGs.

      • Lazarus

        How? Of their 6 FFG’s, 2 were cannibalized to complete HM&E upgrades to the 4 designated for modernization. One of those (HMAS Sidney,) has already been retired. The Australians essentially spent $1.4b to get 8-10 years of questionable life in 4 ships. Given that the RAN had no air defense ships other than frigates 10 years ago, I guess they had little choice.

        • Hugh

          The original program was to upgrade all 6 FFGs around mid-life. Two contractors were considered, one design along extended lines of FFGs, the other design was based on commonality of equipment fitted to the FFHs. The former was chosen, and detailed design commenced. However this design phase blew out significantly in length (as well as the overall expected costs,) so the remaining life of ADELAIDE and CANBERRA was not deemed to be cost effective. The kit for both their upgrades remained in Stores. The 3rd spare set is from ex-SYDNEY, with a 4th coming when DARWIN pays off next year. When the first 2 ships paid off prematurely, they were routinely harvested for spares (rather than being “cannibalised”). The 4 remaining ships had their hulls further strengthened by fitting additional doublers along their sheerstrakes and keels, so they were good for 4,200 tons. The biggest problem was cracking of the aluminium superstructures, which formed a composite hull girder where naturally the aluminium would crack, (not to mention sub-standard welding during construction, and defective detailed design in the superstructure). However we worked out many of the issues, and the ships served well. It should also be noted that the ESSM launchers on their fo’cs’les are the short version, compared to the longer versions on 02 Decks of the FFHs.

          As for destroyers, (in 1990 with Naval Dockyard expertise we designed, manufactured, installed, integrated and set to work a pair of CIWS for BRISBANE to go to the Gulf War – all on only 5 weeks,, with the other 2 DDGs following,) it was indeed a shame that this has been gapped for so long. (And don’t raise the issue on aircraft carriers…….. – politicians!)

          • Curtis Conway

            The US Navy should take full advantage of the recovery effort of the Australian design, make it a bit more robust, and retrofit every FFG-7 we bring back on-line (with spares). Little if any development will be required, and these will be the test/proof platforms for the new capabilities required in new future Presence Frigates to support lower operational cost ISE operations for the Unified Combatant Commanders who have NOTHING to send today.

            Once again, if this platform cannot defend itself from a Tactical Ballistic Missile, or supersonic ASCM . . . then what are we doing? An SM-6 without the booster can do the job, and a non-rotating 3D radar can provide the fire control function, as well as support all other radar functions on the platform. Further improvements to ESSM in its next upgrade can make it more lethal.

          • Lazarus

            Good information. Thanks!

  • Papasan Pauly

    Once again we’re looking at the old quantity vs. quality debate. While Perry’s were useful in very low threat scenarios they were at high risk in high intensity situations. Rather than bringing back ships that were designed as low cost alternatives just to put hulls in the water why not completely overhaul and fully upgrade our existing Tico’s and Burkes?

    Our Sailors are forever the greatest asset Navy will ever have so let’s give them a fighting chance no matter what missions they’re given. To this end I’d spend the money to make Ticos and Burkes truly multimission capable with everything from more seawhiz to multifunction towed arrays, cruise missiles and harpoons on all cruisers and destroyers. Equally important I’d do the full Baseline 9 upgrades for TBMD and well as ship defense against new emerging missile technologies. I’d rather spend extra money to help our Sailors survive combat rather than bringing back Perry’s or building more LCS’s.

    • Curtis Conway

      When the FFG-7 first came out it was obviously an example of which you speak “ships that were designed as low cost alternatives just to put hulls in the water”. After all the upgrades and improvements made to the Fig-7s, they turned out to be quite a little platform that held their own pretty much everywhere they went. Their increased lethality bridged the gap, and their sailors loved them. This should be the goal with out new SSC vessel in the future. High in capability, and low operational cost, honoring the crew with capability that is second to none.

      • Papasan Pauly

        “Honoring the Crew” … very well said and I’m totally stealing this one as no truer words written Sir. I’m just an old knuckle draggin’ grunt whose smart enough to see wisdom when I see it ha ha ha. 🙂

        And we totally agree our Sailors deserve the best we can give them because they earn their pay every day. While we’re both on the same page with good offensive systems we’re equally on the same page in giving them everything they need for crew and ship survival defensive systems as well. While those very systems aren’t pretty or exotic they mean the difference between our Sailors making it home to their Families safe which is the bottom line no matter how anyone slices it.

        You’re good people Curtis Conway and I’m damn proud to post with you Sailor. Hooyah – Urrah.

        Semper Fi

    • Hugh

      As a stopgap up to 10 years, re-commission a mix of FFGs and DDGs, whatever can be reactivated within a reasonable cost.

      Adequate manning needs a budget and time to recruit and train.