On 29 September the U.S. Navy decommissioned its last remaining Oliver Hazard Perry–class frigate, the USS Simpson (FFG-56). The 51 Perry-class frigates that entered U.S. service beginning in the 1970s proved remarkably sturdy during both combat and noncombat operations, and the soundness of the design permitted numerous enhancements and upgrades. By the dawn of 21st century, however, the vessels began to show their age as newer and larger warships entered the fleet. In 2003 the class’s primary air-defense weapon, the Standard SM-1 surface-to-air missile, was retired from U.S. service and the existing Mk-13 missile launchers were removed, along with the capability to launch Harpoon antiship missiles. Armed with little more than a 3-inch gun each for the remainder of their lives, the surviving Perrys remained valuable assets thanks to their dual-helicopter hangar, which proved useful for low-threat operations such as humanitarian-assistance and counter-drug missions.
By Eric Wertheim