US Navy Frigates of the Cold War, Mark Stille

US Navy Frigates of the Cold War, Mark Stille

New Vanguard 297

The focus of this book is on a series of post-war anti-submarine warfare ocean escort vessels, produced by the United States to counter faster post-war Soviet submarines. They were similar in purpose to the wartime Destroyer Escorts, which had been designed as a relatively cheap vessel that could be mass produced to protect convoys against the German U-boats. However the appearance of faster Soviet submarines made them obsolete

We start with a brief explanation of the US Navy’s definition of the frigate, which varied during this period, although it could do with having been clearer. In the post-war period the US navy’s frigates were ships like the Mitscher class or Farragut class, which were larger than destroyers. When the Mitscher class ships were laid down in 1949 they were classified as Destroyer Leaders (DL-2 to DL-5). In 1951 they were reclassified at frigates but kept the DL hull codes. Finally in 1975 the surviving ships were reclassified as cruisers. A larger group were the Farragut class and similar, which were built as missile armed fleet escorts, and classified as DLG, or Frigate, Guided Missile. These became guided missile destroyers or cruisers in 1975.

The books being examined in this book were smaller vessels, originally classified as destroyer escorts (DE) although larger than their Second World War precursors. Any that were still in service in 1975 became frigates, but only the ships of the very last class covered here were actually built as frigates. Here all of the post-war types are described as frigates, although the first two types, the Dealey and Claud Jones types, were never actually designated as frigates during their life time! However this does match the definitions used in most other post-war navies, where frigates were smaller than destroyers. The brief explanation given in the book is accurate, but doesn’t include any examples of the earlier type of frigate, which would have made things clearer.

The difference between these ship’s planned role and what they actually did reminds me of the same gulf between the expected role of destroyers and what they were actually asked to do in both World Wars – in both cases the ships were designed with a particular role in mind – anti-submarine warfare for these frigates, and torpedo attacks on enemy ships for the wartime destroyers – and in both cases they ended up being used for a far wider range of activities, simply because they were capable warships available in large numbers.

The main text starts with a look at the development of anti-submarine weapons, from the simple depth charges of the Second World War to long range rocket launched homing torpedoes and helicopter based systems that made these frigates far more capable. Next comes a look at their actual service record, which ironically hardly included any actual anti-submarine warfare!

Finally we move onto the ships themselves. The early classes were semi-experimental designs, produced in small numbers so that the US Navy would have a design in place if mass production was needed. The various changes are traced until we reach the 1960s Knox class, where that mass production finally began. This type was loosely based on the first of the post-war designs, but with incremental improvements that had been introduced in the intervening classes, although as always seems to be the case was rather larger than the earlier designs. The final Perry class was a new design, but seems to have suffered from limited flexibility when first built (although was given more flexible weapons later on). 

This is a useful examination of a class of ship that was designed to deal with a particular problem, and that has now largely disappeared now the threat of the Soviet submarine fleet has gone.

US Navy Frigate Weapons
US Navy Frigates at War and in peace
The Frigate Classes
Analysis and Conclusion

Author: Mark Stille
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 48
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2021

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