This Retired Perry Class Frigate Just Won’t Sink After Being Severely Pummeled During RIMPAC ‘16

The US Navy’s massive Rim of The Pacific (RIMPAC) multinational exercise is underway off the coast of Hawaii, and part of the biannual drills involves at least one live-fire ship sinking exercise, also known as a SINKEX. This year the decommissioned Oliver Howard Perry class frigate USS Thach (FFG 43) was used for target practice with ships, submarines and aircraft from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the Republic of Korea taking shots at her.

Oliver Howard Perry class frigates are old-school tough fighting ships. In the past they have taken massive mine blasts and stayed afloat. The type continues to serve around the world, and in some cases in greatly enhanced configurations. The video below gives us a reminder of just how damn hardy these ships are. The Thach takes multiple hits from torpedoes and anti-ship missiles and stays upright, even though its aftdeck and foredeck have buckled and the ship’s hull is chocked full of holes. 

It is not clear if all the weapons fired at the ship were loaded with live warheads, but they seem to have been and definitely the torpedoes were.

The comparatively flimsy aluminum-hulled Littoral Combat Ships that have replaced the Oliver Hazard Perry class in the US Navy are just now going through shock trials (see the disaster that is concurrency)—after many of these ships have already been built. And shock trials pale in comparison to the gauntlet thrown down during a SINKEX.

It would be very unlikely that either LCS class would be able to withstand anywhere near the damage shown in the video and still stay afloat. They simply were not designed to anywhere near the same survivability standards. A shallow draft, a small crew complement, and speed are prioritized over combat durability. Building a fleet of dozens of surface combatants worth tens of billions of dollars with the idea that they will never be successfully attacked is one arrogant, dangerous and glaringly near-sighted concept.

The Freedom class LCS USS Freedom refuels from the USS Carl Vinson., USN

These big jet boats are being used not just as speedy brown-water gunboats, but also in more traditional frigate-like roles in blue water situations fo rwhich they were never optimized.

Now, with the schizophrenic LCS still searching for an identity, the Navy is actually increasing weight by adding weapons and armor on these ships, and slowing them down. This added weight and cost won’t even include area air defense capability, a major deficiency that will keep the LCS from operating independently in medium- to high-threat environments. They are even calling this “up gunned” LCS configuration a Frigate.

The whole concept has just become a bastardized joke of what was already a bad idea to begin with. Oh and two shipyards are building these things in two separate classes (for now). The definition of pork. And to think that the F-35 couldn’t even get an alternative engine.

No less than 27 nations, 40 ships and submarines, 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC 2016. The exercises includes everything from visit, board, search and seizure drills and disaster relief exercises to testing new tech in a very high-profile training enviroment. Take this little tracked battle-bot for instance. It’s pretty cool but reminds a lot of its questionable Russian counterparts.

The LCS will also be proudly “showing off” Harpoon Anti-Ship Missiles bolted onto its foredeck like an afterthought during RIMPAC. Hey at this point why not right? 

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Tyler Rogoway


Tyler’s passion is the study of military technology, strategy, and foreign policy and he has fostered a dominant voice on those topics in the defense media space. He was the creator of the hugely popular defense site Foxtrot Alpha before developing The War Zone.