As USS Kauffman (FFG 59) departs Norfolk, Virginia for the 4th Fleet, it marks the final deployment for the U.S. Navy’s Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates. Kauffman departed this week for the Caribbean on the last cruise for what was at one time the Navy’s largest class of ships. Kauffman will be supporting anti-drug operations under Operation Martillo for U.S. Southern Command during her deployment.
The Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates have served the U.S. Navy and the nation for almost 40 years, proving themselves much more tough, adaptable, and useful than their critics predicted decades ago. Early in their development, some criticized their single screw design, said they were underarmed and lacked the latest sensors, were too slow, were vulnerable to damage, had no growth capability, and had grown too expensive as the “low” part of a “high/low” mix of surface combatants. Some also called them ugly, all hard angles and boxy superstructure. But 38 years after Oliver Hazard Perry commissioned, they have served across the globe in nearly every mission conceivable, have shown they can take a punch, are used by several friendly navies where they will continue in service for years, and have been upgraded with potent new weapons and sensors by allies like the Australians.
In their decades of service, I think it’s fair to say they defied expectations, confounded their critics, and were for many years the backbone of the fleet, as good as any ships ever classified as frigates. Farewell to a class much loved by those who served aboard them, which served the Navy and the nation well.