USS Kauffman has embarked on a routine counter-drug mission in the Caribbean, a deployment that is to be the last by an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate flying the Stars and Stripes. After her return in September, she will become the last of 51 ships, and the ninth this year alone, to be decommissioned for sale or scrap.
So could the US Navy be heading towards a fleet without any frigates– not counting the 18th-century USS Constitution – for the first time since the early 1960s? Well, perhaps not, following an announcement by the Navy Secretary to classify a reconfigured version of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) as a frigate (FF).
The FF designation will initially apply to a second batch of 20 ships that are to be redesigned with more advanced weapons, sensors and combat systems, for introduction from 2019 onwards. The first 32 LCS may then be retrofitted to the new FF standard. The two aluminium variants of the current design have received criticism for their lack of firepower and damage protection.