This html article is produced from an uncorrected text file through optical character recognition. Prior to 1940 articles all text has been corrected, but from 1940 to the present most still remain uncorrected. Artifacts of the scans are misspellings, out-of-context footnotes and sidebars, and other inconsistencies. Adjacent to each text file is a PDF of the article, which accurately and fully conveys the content as it appeared in the issue. The uncorrected text files have been included to enhance the searchability of our content, on our site and in search engines, for our membership, the research community and media organizations. We are working now to provide clean text files for the entire collection.
The late Hoosier comic Herb Shriner never failed to draw a laugh when he told of his boyhood pal who was always trying to put square pegs in round holes.
“And he could do it, too,” Shriner added, “he was stronger than most kids.” But, there’s nothing funny about the charge that the Navy’s newest class of escort, the FFG-7s, are “square pegs” that don’t fit into the Navy’s “round holes of operational planning.” Lieutenant Commander Bruce Linder used those words in the June 1983 Proceedings and, in August 1983, we announced a contest designed to augment the several constructive suggestions Linder made on how best to employ the FFG-7s strategically and tactically. The envelopes have all been opened, and, as will be seen on the pages that follow, a clear winner has emerged: the Oliver Hazard Perry -class guided missile frigates.
The FFG-7s in War and Peace
By Lieutenant Dennis T. Stokowski, U. S. Navy
Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7) Clifton Sprague (FFG-16) Wadsworth (FFG-9)
George Philip (FFG-12)
Samuel Eliot Morison (FFG-13) Sides (FFG-14)
John A. Moore (FFG-19) Antrim (FFG-20)
Lewis B. Puller (FFG-23) Flatley (FFG-21)
Mahlon S. Tisdale (FFG-27) Fahrion (FFG-22)
We know what escorts do in wartime: protect vulnerable ships from enemy attack. But what are the FFG-7s, designed especially for the escort mission, supposed to do in peacetime? Presumably, get ready for the next war. How the FFG-7s prepare themselves in peacetime will go far in determining their wartime value to the fleet.
In discussing the Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7)-class frigates, three employment schemes seem most plausible. These were enumerated by Vice Admiral Robert L. Walters, U. S. Navy, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Surface Warfare, in congressional testimony: “These frigates are intended to accompany amphibious forces, underway replenishment groups, and serve as convoy escorts to provide protection against air, surface, and subsurface threats.”1 Although these are not the only tasks that these new ships can conduct, these missions are good points of departure for an analysis of tactics that a task group commander can employ to get the maximum use from his FFG-7s.
When an FFG-7 is assigned to one of these three missions, any tactical decisions involving that frigate must consider both internal and external factors. The external factors include the type of threat, location of forces, the environment, and the number and type of other platforms in the same formation. The internal factors include the weapon systems on board the frigate in question, including both the number and type of helicopters embarked. Internal factors are especially important in so large a ship class because the last hull off the builder’s ways will be considerably more capable than the first. Generally, the USS Underwood (FFG-36) and later ships will be equipped with the SQR-19 tactical towed array sonar (TACTAS), Mk-16 close-in weapon system, Mk-36 super rapid-blooming offboard chaff (SRBOC), and the rapid assistance, securing, and traversing (RAST) system.2 Although installation of the SQR-19 on the FFG-7 through FFG- 35 seems reasonable, the required lengthening of these hulls (except for the FFG-8, which was lengthened) to accommodate RAST does not seem likely.
The LAMPS-1II SF1-60B helicopter is due in the fleet in fiscal year 1985 and will be assigned to the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates. One must remember, however, that the Seahawk will also be committed to Spruance (DD-963)-, Kidd (DDG-993)-, and Ticonderoga (CG-47)-class ships; therefore, many FFG-7s are likely to deploy without this help until a substantial number of the aircraft become available. This is unfortunate when one considers that the Oliver Hazard Perry class is the first U. S. Navy escort built in the last 20 years that will not have a standoff antisubmarine weapon. The design philosophy assumed that such a capability is not necessary on board a ship with two helicopters, each of which can deliver antisubmarine warfare (ASW) weapons at extended ranges. The error of this assumption is obvious when one considers that it will be many years before there are sufficient numbers of Seahawks to assign just one to each frigate!
Besides taking into account the FFG’s strategic task and specific equipment, one must also consider whether the Unite States is engaged in a global war or deploying ships in peacetime. (The “peacetime” setting includes conflicts that do not drastically alter the overall distribution of our naval forces.; The reason for this distinction is that the best preparation for war would be deployments as close as possible to those one worn expect in wartime. The constraints imposed by the necessity t0 “show the flag” as well as to maintain a fleet with peacetime dollars does not always allow for this. For example, one-third o U. S. aircraft carriers are generally deployed, whereas fewer than one-quarter of the escorts are in such a state. Presumably.1 war were imminent, an increased readiness posture would ensure a greater number of deployable escorts. The net result is that in peacetime an FFG-7 might be part of a carrier battle group- whereas war plans may have the FFG-7 as part of an underway replenishment group.
In addition to U. S. military posture, another concern must be addressed when discussing the tactics for employing the OHve Hazard Perry class. Although the Navy’s leadership may say that there is only one Navy, the constraint imposed upon a ship by making one-half of her crew part-time employees greatly re' duces the peacetime effectiveness of that ship. Moreover, as can be seen in Table 1, the frigates being turned over to the reserves have hull numbers below 36.3 This is the “unimproved” version and will remain that way for the near future. These 16 ships are an important part of the Navy, but because their reserve status may have a significant impact on planning for their future usej they should be considered separately when discussing tactica considerations of the Oliver Hazard Perry class.
One of the most important tactical considerations for the FFG-7 is where to station the frigate relative to the formation being escorted. The officer in tactical command must weigh eac applicable factor to find the best location for his FFG-7.
The passive capabilities of the SQR-19 TACTAS call l°r stationing an FFG-7 beyond the second or third convergence zone of the escorted group. This is especially true for high speed of advance in which task group self-noise, as well as the ratio o
Table 1 Naval Reserve Force FFG-7 Implementation
Ship NameIHull Number Home Port Da,e
Long Beach Jan 84
Philadelphia Aug 84
Long Beach Jun 8'
Philadelphia Sep 82
To Be Determined Jan 8
To Be Determined Jun 8
To Be Determined Aug 8
To Be Determined Sep 8
To Be Determined Jan 8
To Be Determined Jan 8
To Be Determined Jan 8
To Be Determined Nov
To Be Determined Jan 8
To Be Determined Jan 8
To Be Determined Jan 8
sprint-drift time for the towing ship, will be high.
The presence of a helicopter on the FFG-7 also pushes the ship’s station outward, as one does not have to consider gaps in coverage between ships in an outer ASW screen. This is especially true with LAMPS-III, where information passing between the helo and “home plate” will be extremely efficient. The presence of two LAMPS-III Seahawks makes distant stationing even more feasible because greater areas of sonar interest may be investigated. Two Seahawks would also lend flexibility should it become necessary to position the FFG-7 in close proximity to the main body; it is still possible to maintain a credible sonobuoy barrier using two helos. Doing so with only a single helo on each FFG-7 would be extremely difficult.
The installation of SRBOC with the SLQ-32 implies stationing near the escorted vessels so that these systems could—in conjunction with those on other escorts—provide an umbrella of Protection. This is important when the air threat is greater than •he submarine threat, although the presence of cruise missiles on am, surface, and subsurface platforms makes closer stationing a consideration in all three threat environments.
The Standard missile system (unlike some of the other weapons discussed) will be installed on all ships of the FFG-7 class, and would therefore seem to pose less of a tactical dilemma. But •his is not the case because the SM-1 (MR) missile profile, in most scenarios, is best used from a position very near the tarred vessel. Consequently, if a considerable number of other missile ships are available, it might be best to let those ships do •he antiair warfare (AAW) work and station the FFG-7s in the outer ASW barrier. This appears more reasonable when one considers that the older guided missile ships are generally equipped with the SQS-23 sonar and do not have the passive capability of the FFG-7s with the SQR-19. The superior AAW capability of an SM-1/2 (ER) missile-equipped ship over that of an SM-1 (MR)- cquipped FFG makes a further case for placing the frigates away from other AAW ships. Finally, if a “Backfire” bomber equipped with an AS-4 “Kitchen” antiship missile is likely to uttack, the capability of the FFG-7 class—without a three-dimensional radar and with only a medium-range surface-to-air missile—makes an intercept unlikely, and the relative importance of the FFG-7 as an AAW asset is even less significant. Although the point may seem to be that the AAW potential of the Oliver Hazard Perry class is questionable, the tactical commander would no doubt believe that an FFG-7 stationed 60 to 100 nautical miles from a task group’s center would be better suited for self-defense against an air threat than a Spruance-class destroyer or a Knox (FF-1052)-class frigate.
Presence of a direct-support submarine, although unlikely in •my scenario other than that involving a carrier battle group,
When assigned to protect amphibious warfare ships, FFG-7s like the Antrim, above, should be placed in the vanguard of the amphibious group in transit to the objective, and then pulled back to defend the group’s flanks as it nears the beach.
would allow the stationing of FFG-7s closer to a formation’s center, because the attack submarine’s performance in ASW is unequalled. Poor sonar conditions, including congested shipping lanes, would also cause the frigate’s station to be moved closer to the formation’s center and would make SQR-19 towing less likely and active SQS-56 operation more probable.
Underway Replenishment Groups: During congressional testimony on the fiscal year 1983 budget, Vice Admiral Robert L. Walters presented documentation that fixed the Navy’s projected goal for FF/FFG types at 101 vessels.4 One may assume that 46 FF-1052s and 55 FFG-7s account for this projection, and that all other frigates will have been previously decommissioned. A typical underway replenishment group (URG) escort might therefore be one Arleigh Burke (DDG-51)-class destroyer, one FF-1052, and two FFG-7s. As the URG transits from the United States or some relatively secure overseas base to a forward area, the only threat that can challenge those ships throughout their route is a submarine. Surface or air attack could be expected in the middle part of the voyage but not within a day or two of the departed base because of air support from that base. Attack in the area in which the URG will replenish a task group is also less likely if the group to be replenished contains an aircraft carrier; her air wing could effectively shield the URG. Therefore, escorts should be stationed so as to best defend against the most likely threat—the submarine. If the FFG-7s had the SQR-19 installed, and especially if Seahawks were embarked, the optimal tactic would be to have them operate as a passive pair ahead and to either side of the group. They could then coordinate sonar information and speed contact localization. Also, having two ships that are LAMPS-III-capable would be more effective than a pair consisting of an FFG-7 and an FF-1052. With two FFG-7s, either ship could efficiently control the helo during prosecution of a submarine. Although an FF-1052-class ship could also control a helo, the FFG-7 with the LAMPS-III system could do it more effectively. The FF and DDG could then be stationed closer to the replenishment ships, with the DDG on the AAW threat axis. If the FF had a LAMPS-I helo embarked, she could be used in a pouncer role, should a sub evade the FFG-7s.
Another reason for placing the FFG-7s ahead of the URG is to provide antisurface protection; their passive sonar capabilities against surface ships should not be overlooked. Seahawk/O/ivtr
Proceedings / April 1984
A. D. BAKER 111
Hazard Perry coordination should bring Harpoon use to a higher level of speed and accuracy than currently exists in the fleet.
Amphibious Ready Groups: Only one-third of the projected escorts assigned to amphibious ready groups will be frigates. Their contribution to antiair warfare is even less important than in the URG situation, as the greater assigned number of more capable DDGs reduces the air defense contribution of the FFG- 7s. Here, too, the FFG-7s generally should be placed in the vanguard of the task group to provide protection against surface and subsurface threats out to a range that would give maximum protection to the amphibians. As the amphibious ready group approaches the amphibious objective area, the FFG-7s should fall back to a position from which they could protect the flanks of the amphibious ships near the beach. The greater firepower of the DDGs’ five-inch guns makes them better candidates for naval gunfire support. In a likely scenario, the amphibious ready group may rendezvous with either a surface action group centered around a battleship, or with a carrier battle group. In either case, the FFG-7s may be replaced by other escorts that could provide flank protection. The FFG-7s could then be dispatched to provide services elsewhere. They have speed greater than that of the Knox class and good range (4,500 nautical miles at 20 knots). They also have a self-defense capability which is greater than that on board the Spruance class. A formation of FFG-7s could quickly and safely move on to new duties.
Convoy: If convoys are to be escorted almost entirely by frigates, then a reverse of the stationing proposals given for underway replenishment and amphibious ready groups may be necessary. Unlike the previous two cases, the FFG-7s would be the only escorts with area antiair capability. One would therefore have to consider placing them closer to the merchant vessels if an air threat is present. This would be especially true if the lone Spruance or one of the Knoxs had a TACTAS capability, and could therefore be placed in the outer ASW screen.
It may be that the Soviets would choose to use most of their naval forces closer to home, especially in defense of ballistic missile submarine operating areas. Another possibility is that they would conduct only a limited campaign against sea lines of communication, primarily directed at carrier battle groups and amphibious ready groups. In either case, the FFG assigned to convoys might be better used elsewhere.
It may also be better not to provide escorts, even if merchant vessels are targeted. Eight SL-7 containerships were recently purchased by the United States, each having the capability to deliver vast quantities of war supplies. Their speed allows them to transit from the U. S. East Coast to Europe in four days and to
the Persian Gulf via Suez in 11 days.5 These ships, with their 34-knot speed, cannot be effectively escorted by any combatant especially a 30-knot frigate!
Where, then, should the 35 or so FFG-7s assigned to the convoys be used? They could augment escorts in other groups, or they could be used as stationary ASW barriers. The feasibility ot using P-3s, CAPTOR mines, and attack submarines to secure the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom Gap is well recognized. But there are other areas that can be effectively controlled by OW Hazard Perry-class frigates.
For example, three or four FFG-7s equipped with SQR'^s and Seahawks could operate in the Straits of Florida and the Yucatan Channel. The commitment of these few assets could create a threat-free inland sea for intra-Gulf shipping, which would also be a “safe” area where convoys bound for Europe could assemble without escorts. The importance of this area is established by the fact that almost all of our petroleum supply8 for our NATO forces originate from Gulf Coast ports.6 The FFG- 7s would also help to protect our offshore oil platforms and the associated network of crude oil piping from sabotage by submarine-delivered divers. With their surface-to-air missiles and Sea- hawk/Harpoon capabilities, the FFG-7s could defend themselves from Cuban forces, which now include more than 200 modern tactical aircraft, many patrol combatants, and two “Foxtrot - class submarines.7
In a similar manner, an FFG-7 could be stationed at the Strait of Gibraltar. Several could also be stationed across the Mediterranean from Tunisia to Sicily. It is always assumed that our allies will seal the Dardanelles and the Bosporus when hostilities break out, but what about the subs already in the Med on D-day? The FFG-7 barriers could limit Soviet submarine operations to the Eastern Mediterranean or prevent breakout to the Atlantic.
Finally, although the Soviets may not conduct extensive antimerchant action in the Atlantic, their numerous Pacific Fleet submarines could find the supertanker route between Valdez an the contiguous United States a tempting target. Once again, here is another escort job for which the FFG-7 is well suited.
Carrier Battle Groups: No FFG-7s are currently projected t°r assignment to aircraft carriers as escorts. Should the Soviets choose not to engage merchant shipping, but rather concentrate their naval power against carrier battle groups, then one may fin FFG-7s in a role for which they were not designed. Should this be the case, then the Oliver Hazard Perry-class ships shorn probably be used as plane guards.8 But instead of the usual plant' guard station astern of the carrier, the FFG-7 should be place abeam of her for several reasons:
^ Helicopters are the preferred method for rescuing downed fliers °r flight deck personnel blown overboard. The helo can usually perform the task more quickly than a ship, and definitely 'vith less risk to the person in the water.
* In low wind conditions during flight operations, an aircraft carrier’s speed may temporarily exceed the 30-knot maximum of FFG-7s. From an abeam station, frigates could fall back momentarily and still maintain a position in close proximity to the carrier.
^ The limiting lines of approach make submarine attack from astern of the carrier unlikely. An FFG-7 abeam of the carrier is in a better position to use the SQS-56 to detect a sub that has leaked through the forward portion of the ASW screen.
► An FFG-7 abeam of the carrier, or—better yet—one off each beam, will be on the side of the carrier that presents the largest cross-section to antiship cruise missiles. From this station, an FFG-7 could best use her SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures and Phalanx close-in weapon system against missile attacks.
The realities that confront a Navy not engaged in full-scale hostilities may make it necessary to deploy the Oliver Hazard Ferry-class frigates as elements of a carrier battle group, rather lhan as units of other naval formations, as they would be in Wartime. With a little creativity and a minor sacrifice on the part °f the battle group commander, a practical solution can be real- med to accommodate the frigates in such a role.
Instead of deploying with the rest of a battle group, the FFG- assigned to that group should deploy with the replenishment ships assigned to rendezvous with that battle group; the FFG-7s could conduct exercises en route that would enhance their proficiency as part of an underway replenishment group. As the two groups approached their rendezvous point, surface and air units from the carrier’s escorts could be detached for simulated engagements against the frigates. Upon completion of underway replenishment, the FFG-7s could remain with the battle group for Ihe duration of the deployment—with the exception of a similar exercise on the return transit. In addition, transiting nuclear- powered attack submarines could provide an encounter opportunity when the FFG-7s accompany a replenishment group. Should an amphibious task group deploy around the time that a carrier battle group is scheduled to deploy, then the FFG-7s could escort these ships to the Sixth or Seventh Fleets, as in the previous example. Frigates deployed with a carrier battle group could also be detached for a week or two to participate with an amphibious group that is scheduled to conduct a landing exercise overseas. The presence of FFG-7s would also be good training for the crews of amphibious or replenishment ships, which may not be as AAW/ASW-oriented as the frigates’ crews.
Naval Reserve Duty: Only 65% of the manning of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class ships assigned to the reserves will be active- duty personnel. One can expect that the engineering department Will have the highest percentage of billets filled with regular Navy personnel. For this reason, any realistic at-sea training— other than engineering casualty control drills—will have to be conducted when a large portion of the reserve complement is on board; this usually translates to a weekend a month and a two- Week period once per year. How, then, should the reserve FFG-7s home-ported in Philadelphia, Long Beach, and possibly Newport, Charleston, and San Francisco use these periods for training?
Although such training periods are limited, the crucial point is that—to the maximum extent possible—they should be spent at sea. During the weekend periods, frigates in Newport could exercise with one of the many subs home-ported in New London. Similarly, frigates in Philadelphia will be close to submarines in New London or Norfolk. In Charleston, the frigates will have exercise units in their own home port. The reserve LAMPS-I
squadron scheduled to be stationed at Naval Air Station South Weymouth, Massachusetts, in fiscal year 1984, should be employed with the Newport and Philadelphia ships whenever feasible. The Charleston frigates could work with an active-duty LAMPS detachment closer to theirhome port. East Coast fixed- wing assets should also be committed to exercise with these units—if we are actually one Navy.
On the West Coast, the Long Beach FFG-7s are practically in the Southern California operational areas as soon as they pass the breakwater. There are a large number of units available in the San Diego area with which to exercise on weekends. A second reserve LAMPS-I squadron will be stationed at San Diego in fiscal year 1985 and should provide helos to work up with the Long Beach frigates. Any FFG-7s assigned to San Francisco, however, would not have access to the same quantity of submarine and air assets; they could make up for this by exercising with other bay area escorts.
Two-week active-duty training for the reserve FFG-7s should be scheduled to coincide with major Second or Third Fleet exercises. These units should be fully integrated into the regular fleet during such periods. The surface navy could follow the example of the recent integration of reserve F-4 Phantom squadrons (VF- 201 and VF-202) within the air wing embarked on board the USS Coral Sea (CV-43).9
If coincidental scheduling with fleet exercises is not feasible, then the reserve frigates at least should spend their two weeks in an escort role. West Coast units could accompany WestPac- bound amphibious or replenishment units as far as Hawaii, with the P-3 aircraft or submarines stationed there providing a day of training support as the group approaches the islands. Similarly, the East Coast FFG-7s could escort units at least a portion of the way across the Atlantic. Any surface ships, submarines, or— better yet—aircraft on board a carrier returning from the Sixth Fleet could act as an adversary.
The U. S. Navy will have 50 or51 Oliver Hazard Perry-class ships by 1987. They should be viewed as a first-class component of the 600-ship Navy, whose versatility makes them an important asset. The tactical commander given charge of an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate must consider carefully all the tactical options that an FFG-7 makes available, in order to get the maximum contribution from his ship.
'Robert L. Walters, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Surface Warfare), testimony to the House Subcommittee on Seapower and Strategic and Critical Materials, 24 March 1982.
2Jcan Labayle Couhat, ed., Combat Fleets of the World 1982183 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1982), p. 576.
"John H. Tennent V, “Modernizing the Naval Reserve Force,” Surface Warfare, December 1982, p. 41.
'Kent J. Carroll, Commander, Military Sealift Command, testimony to the Senate Committee on Armed Services, 5 April 1977.
6Wesley L. McDonald, Commander in Chief Atlantic Command, "Our Atlantic Strategy: Strengths and Weaknesses,” Defense 83, August 1983, p. 5 7Ibid., p. 4.
8See Bruce R. Linder, “FFG-7s: Square Pegs,” Proceedings, June 1983, p. 41, for a thorough discussion of this concept.
’Navy Newsgram (37-83), 10 September 1983.
Lieutenant Stokowski earned his M.S. degree in operations analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in 1983. He served as the main propulsion assistant and combat information center officer on board the USS Cochrane (DDG-21), and currently is attending the surface warfare officer department head course in Newport, Rhode Island.
Article Bonus Contest Winner