MAYPORT Florida —
USS Simpson (FFG 56) decommissions at the end of September, the U.S. Navy will
be left with only one active frigate on the books.
the last active Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, is being prepared for
inactivation as she takes a sabbatical from active service prior to being sold
to another country through the State Department’s foreign military sales (FMS) program.
number of frigates have met the same fate.
The U.S. sold frigates to Bahrain, Egypt, Poland, Turkey and Pakistan.
Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC) in Mayport, Florida has the honor
of leading Simpson to her historic end of American service. But it’s a far cry from turning out the
lights and locking the doors to send Simpson into deactivation and ultimately
are engineering requirements and painstaking logistical events that go into deactivating
a ship. SERMC joins the ship’s crew and
local contractors in preparing the Navy’s last frigate to join the inactive
reserve. Only then will Simpson make the
journey to Philadelphia where she will wait to be sold.
lucky,” said Renee Justice, port engineer in charge of Simpson’s decommission
preps. “Simpson has a great crew. We just passed the milestone where we are to
have 25 percent of the spaces closed out, and Simpson is at 56 percent closed.”
are systematically prepared, inspected and closed. Classified material must be removed with the
bottom drawer of each file cabinet or desk standing open. Justice said it forces the inspectors to look
underneath to make sure nothing has fallen from the drawers to the back inside
of the furniture.
also explained that all shipboard fluids have to be drained.
fire main and chill water have to be drained. Contractors deactivate CHT (collection,
holding and transfer of the ship’s sewage), AFFF (aqueous film-forming foam) stations
are drained and fan coil units are drained,” Justice said. “Philly is cold in the winter, so it’s really
important to drain the fluids to keep the pipes from bursting.”
also a threat of flooding through any number of valve openings to the sea. SERMC has a way to mitigate that threat too.
have to ‘blank’ all the sea valves, anything within four feet of the water
line,” said Nadia Tepper, the project manager assigned to Simpson. “We also blank all intakes and vents so no
foreign particles come in.”
blanking process means a steel plate and rubber gasket are attached to cap all
the pipes and valves leading outside.
Nothing comes in or out of these valves.
Tepper said there are 91 sea valves that must be capped. Many openings will have cofferdams attached under
the ship by Navy divers assigned to SERMC.
She said divers will also wrap and pack the shaft and stern tube so
there’s no possible way of flooding during tow or when she sits awaiting
Simpson will see action again under a different flag, many of the ship’s
systems are not dismantled or removed, but put in a “layup” condition such that
the systems will require little effort to restart.
are put in layup,” Tepper said. “Some
combat systems are removed, along with the classified gear. CIWS (Close-In Weapons System) will be gone
at the end of August.”
According to the Navy, the U.S.
Coast Guard is harvesting weapons systems components from decommissioned Navy Perry-class frigates to save money,
with more than $24 million in cost savings so far. Equipment including Mk 75, 76 mm/62
caliber gun mounts, gun control panels, barrels, launchers, junction boxes, and
other components will be returned to service aboard Famous-class cutters to
extend their service lives into the 2030s. Tepper said
whatever is reused must be in working condition and continue to meet military
returned June 14 from deployment and started her decommissioning availability
started preparing for decommissioning before we even returned from deployment,”
said Ens. Jamar Miles, gunnery officer for Simpson and her public affairs
officer. “We collected all the historic
items and prepared them for shipping to the Naval History and Heritage Command
in Washington DC.”
said there were boxes and boxes of artifacts.
The ship’s bell, many times used for christening/baptism, was used one
last time on July 24 when a crewmember christened two of his children.
will have a ceremony to celebrate her 30 years of service, and the crew will
scatter to other ships and duty stations throughout the fleet. The only thing left is towing her to
said towing a ship in the open ocean requires a special tow package. SERMC contracted workers to add boarding
ladders, rigging gear and ten pad eyes where the tow master needs them to ensure
a safe journey north. Contractors weld a
locking device to the head of the shaft to prevent it from turning while under
tow. The rudder is also locked at zero degrees
position, or amidship.
said Simpson will go into a dry dock maintenance availability and the State Dept.
will look at the CSMP (Current Ship’s Maintenance Project) to see what needs to
be fixed prior to FMS.
another crucial part of the decomm process: documenting all the ship’s problems
on the CSMP,” Justice said.
Tepper and Justice said the crew has been outstanding and very responsive.
collaboratively with contractors, SERMC and ship’s force have been the
difference in being so far ahead of schedule,” Tepper said.
USS Kauffman (FFG 59) was to have been
the last “fig” to be retired, scheduled for Sept. 25, but a deployment
extension on Simpson pushed her decommissioning date back from August to Sept.
Perhaps Simpson's greatest claim to fame came on her first
overseas deployment in January 1988. The
ship was assigned as an escort to U.S.-flagged merchant vessels in the Arabian
April 18, 1988, Simpson was a principle ship of Operation Praying Mantis
responding to the Iranian mine attack on USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58). Operating in conjunction with two other Navy
ships, Simpson was responsible for the destruction of an Iranian oil platform
and sinking the Iranian Navy missile patrol combatant, Joshan.
Navy records indicate the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates
were designed primarily as anti-aircraft and anti-submarine warfare
guided-missile warships intended to provide open-ocean escort of amphibious
warfare ships and merchant ship convoys.
This class was designed to be
capable of withstanding considerable damage and that was proven when USS Samuel B. Roberts
struck a mine, and USS
Stark was hit by two Exocet cruise missiles. In both cases,
the ships survived, were repaired and returned to the fleet.
Many are sad to see the Perrys
go, but it’s part of the natural evolution of ships and warfighting. This class of frigate will eventually be
replaced by Littoral Combat Ships and eventually a newer variant of the LCS,
also called frigates.
When Simpson goes, one of the
Navy’s frigate bookends will fall off the shelf leaving only USS Constitution
on the active books as the only frigate in commission. A true testament to the resiliency of the
American frigate, Constitution is 218 years old.