[Defense in Brief] U.S. Navy won’t reactive Perry-class frigates for Southern Command

The U.S. Navy says it has no plans to reactive Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates for Southern Command’s anti-drug mission and will instead send other vessels.

Rather, the sea service will support SOUTHCOM’s mission with Littoral Combat Ships and Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transports (T-EPF) through a commitment to support the Joint Interagency Task Force South by next year.

A Dec. 5 memo from Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson says, “We discussed the idea of reactivating FFG-7 ships, but the process of evaluating alternatives identified better solutions using LCS and T-EPF ships.”

Spencer previously said he wanted four ships designated for the SOUTCOM mission.

“Multiple demands will require prioritization, but this mission must be in the top priority category for these ships, reversing the prior decision to eliminate support [to SOUTHCOM],” he wrote.

“Since the training areas are close to the operational areas covered by the Task Force, it is likely possible that part of the training profile can be real maritime security tasks likely to be encountered many places in the world.”

The Navy hasn’t had an active anti-trafficking role since the Perry-class frigates were retired from the fleet.

Spencer toured the FFG-7 warship formally known as the USS Elrod at the Inactive Ships Maintenance Facility at The Navy Yard in Philadelphia earlier this year. [source]

(Analyst comment: Reactivating the Perry-class boats in order to help President Trump’s desire to create a 355-ship fleet has been floated in Congress and the Pentagon, but we can’t find much support for the idea. Well past their warfighting life, reactivating the old ships to meet today’s threats would be costlier than budgeteers are willing to spend — to the tune of hundreds of millions per hull. The recommendation has been to put those funds into modernizing the Navy’s existing fleet of cruisers and developing a nest-gen frigate (FFG(X)).

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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