The frigate, as a naval surface fighting warship, has evolved considerably throughout its centuries of active service. They were born from the need for cost-effective warships built on the qualities of speed and agility and have become general purpose steel fighting ships today, outfitted with a specific armament load out to contend with varying threats. The United States Navy (USN) itself declares its frigates as surface warships designed to protect allied ships of the fleet while also holding inherent provisions to seek out, target and engage enemy submarines. While outfitted with an array of weaponry, these ships are typically not regarded as "multi-mission" platforms unlike other types in service, limiting their tactical usefulness but allowing them to be cost-efficient, long term investments.
The Oliver Hazard Perry-class of guided missile frigates (assigned "FFG" in the USN) was introduced during the latter half of the Cold War, specifically in 1977, and grew to become a 71-strong class at its peak usage. The class was led by the USS Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7) herself who carried the name of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry (1785-1819). Perry served the burgeoning USN during its critical early years following independence. Today, the class has seen her numbers largely reduced amidst budget cuts and advancing technologies concerning naval warfare, replaced largely through stealthier missile guided frigates with multi-mission capabilities. The USS Ford (FFG-54) represents one of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class, herself carrying the namesake of Gunner's Mate Patrick O'Ford (1942-1968) who served the USN with distinction, giving his life in the Vietnam War (1955-1975). The USS Ford saw her keel laid down on July 11th, 1983 by Todd Pacific Shipyards of San Pedro, California to which she was then launched on June 23rd, 1984 and officially commissioned on June 29th, 1985. She currently (2013) makes her homeport out of Naval Station Everett in Washington state and fights under the simple motto of "Tenacious". Her patch includes two crossed old-style naval cannon over a multi-colored shield.
It is worth noting that Oliver Hazard Perry-class ship construction was divided between Bath Iron Works, Todd Shipyards (Seattle) and Todd Shipyards (San Pedro).
The USS Ford displaces at 4,160 tons under full load and features a bow-to-stern length of 453 feet, a beam measurement of 45 feet and a draught of 22 feet. Her design follows that of the whole Oliver Hazard Perry-class of surface ships with their conventionally tapered, raised bow section, single-piece superstructure and open-air stern. The stern is reserved for the flight deck space required to service, land and launch medium-lift type helicopters. A hanger is attached to the aft portion of the superstructure and offers near-full maintenance and repair capabilities. The bridge, identified by its row of large windows, is set on the extreme upper section of the superstructure at front with a commanding view over the bow and frontal sides of the ship. The main mast if an exposed tripod style design while various sensors and communications systems are arranged atop support structures over and aft of the bridge. The vessel is crewed by up to 205 personnel made up of 15 officers and up to 190 enlisted. Additionally, she carries her own helicopter air arm numbering 21 and this group made up of six officers and up to fifteen technicians. The stern flight deck is cleared to service up to 2 x Sikorsky SH-60 (LAMPS III-equipped) series naval helicopters.
Power for USS Ford is conventionally served through 2 x General Electric LM2500-30 series gas turbines generating 41,000 shaft horsepower to a single variable-pitch screw mounted under the stern. This provides the vessel with a maximum sea-going speed of 29 knots in ideal conditions. Operational range is out to 5,000 nautical miles. Her helicopter arm allows for extended reconnoitering ranges and submarine-hunting capabilities.
As a multi-role general purpose surface ship, the USS Ford is outfitted with an array of weaponry led by its 1 x 76mm /62 caliber OTO Melara Mk.75 deck gun (of Italian design). This is supplemented by 1 x 25mm Mk 38 series turreted autocannon over the aft portion of the superstructure. Submarines and surface threats are dealt with 2 x 324mm Mk.32 triple-tube torpedo launchers cleared to fire the Mark 46 series torpedo. A single 20mm Vulcan Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapons System) serves to manage incoming aerial threats through a digitally-based infrastructure and can engage cruise missiles as well. Extreme close-in defense is by way of 4 x 12.7mm (0.50cal) heavy machine guns.
The USS Ford (FFG-54) maintains an active service standing with the USN as of this writing (2013), having completed various port stops, exercises and patrols during her tenure. She collected the 2006 "Battle E" recognition for excellent service.