By October 2015, the fleet will be devoid of frigates for the first time in more than 70 years, according to the Navy’s latest decommissioning plan. The Navy plans to retire all of the remaining frigates, as well as five ships and two subs, during fiscal year 2015, the service announced July 1.
The last Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate scheduled to be decommissioned is the Kauffman, set to leave the fleet Sept. 21, 2015. After that, the battle force will be without a frigate class for the first time since 1943, according to fleet composition records kept by Naval History and Heritage Command.
Most of the frigates are to be sold to foreign navies. The only technical exception to frigate retirements is “Old Ironsides”: The USS Constitution, rated as a frigate when it was launched in 1797, remains in commission and does not count toward the Navy’s force levels.
Along with the frigates, the ship inactivation plan announced July 11 said the minesweeper Defender, the attack submarines La Jolla and Norfolk, and the amphibious assault ship Peleliu will be inactivated next year. The replenishment ship Rainier and two research vessels also will be inactivated, as will the survey ship Sumner. The fiscal 2015 inactivation schedule, according to NAVADMIN 152/14 is:
• Oct. 1, 2014: Minesweeper Defender, dismantling; research vessel Melville, foreign military sale.
• Dec. 1: Attack submarine La Jolla, conversion to moored training ship.
• Dec. 15: Attack submarine Norfolk, dismantling.
• Dec. 31: Research vessel Knorr, foreign military sale.
• Jan. 14, 2015: Frigate McClusky, foreign military sale.
• Jan 30: Frigate Elrod, foreign military sale.
• March 31: Amphibious assault ship Peleliu, out of commission/in reserve; frigates Ingraham (dismantling), Vandegrift (foreign military sale) and Rodney M. Davis (foreign military sale).
• May 8: Frigate Taylor, foreign military sale.
• May 22: Frigate Samuel B. Roberts, dismantling.
• Aug. 5: Frigate Gary, foreign military sale.
• Aug. 14: Frigate Simpson, foreign military sale.
• Sept. 21: Frigate Kauffman, foreign military sale.
• Sept. 30: Replenishment ship Rainier, out of commission/in reserve.
The missions conducted by the frigate fleet will pass to the littoral combat ship, a platform that will be up to the task once the mission packages are ironed out, said a retired frigate CO.
“LCS will bring additional capabilities that frigates never had,” said retired Capt. Rick Hoffman, who commanded the frigate De Wert. “And it’s true that it has limited anti-surface capabilities in a conventional sense, but when you look at the threat, they are more than adequate.”
The problem, Hoffman said, is that the gap between the frigate retirements and the LCS introduction will leave some missions without enough ships, like the counternarcotics patrols in U.S. Southern Command.