From the 15th Century onwards, the "frigate" was a warship built for speed and maneuverability. In World War 2, the frigate took on the role of submarine hunter which continued into the Cold War, with the Oliver Hazard Perry-class (or "Perry-class" for short) of missile-laden Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) frigates built from 1974 to 2004. Today, the Perry-class is coming to the end of its useful service life within the United States Navy and plans are in place to decommission or sell off the remaining twenty-six Perry-class frigates by 2017. The class has beautiful lines making her long and sleek in appearance with a knife-point bow that allows her to cut through waves at near 30-knot speeds. Beyond the United States Navy, Perry-class vessels are operated within the navies of Australia, Bahrain, Egypt, Poland, Taiwan, Pakistan, Spain and Turkey.
Commissioned in 1987, the USS Kauffman was one of the Perry-class ships built, today still in active service. Open to the public during Fleet Week 2011 when docked at Staten Island, New York, the 34-year old ship appeared in tip-top condition, very much able to carry out her mission. Her varied missions were centered around carrier and fleet strike group protection, Anti-Submarine Warfare and pirate suppression patrols. The main difference in the Perry-class was its armament, fielding guided missiles which give her the "FFG" designation in the USN inventory. However, all US Perry-class Frigates had their surface-to-air and surface-to-surface missiles removed in 2004. The decision to remove the Harpoon and SM-1MR standard anti-ship missiles did change the overall effectiveness of the Perry-class. The class still does support LAMPS III series helicopters and these support Penguin anti-ship missiles. The Penguin (AGM-119) anti-ship missile itself is a short-to-medium range naval guided missile originally developed in Norway. From early in 1970, the Penguin has been continually upgraded and used on the LAMPS III series navy helicopters which allows the Kaufman to continue to use the guided-missile ship classification.
Kauffman has retained her single-mount 3" 76mm OTO Melara rapid-fire, remote-controlled autocannon. This powerful gun can fire up to 80 rounds-per-minute out to a maximum range of 10 nautical miles (18.5 kilometers). The gun is positioned on the top deck at about amidships, able to fire to the port, starboard and aft sections. The gun, and the onboard systems on the LAMPS III helicopters, are connected to the MK 92 MOD 6 CORT Fire Control System (FCS).
Also connected to the MK 92 fire control system are other weapons onboard the ship. For ASW defense or offense, there are 2 x Mk 32 triple torpedo tube launchers - one to port and one to starboard - for use with the ATK Mk 46 Mod 5 lightweight torpedo or the ATK Mk 50 torpedo. The Mk 46 torpedoes range is listed out to 11 kilometers and has a 44 kilogram warhead that can home in on an enemy submarine or surface vessel at a speed of up to 40 knots. The Mk 50 torpedo has a speed of 50 knots. For short range defense against high-speed surface craft and incoming missile threats, the Kaufman crew relies on the Raytheon Mk 15 Block 1B "Phalanx" six-barrel, Gatling 20mm gun. The CIWS (Close-In Weapon System) fires at 4,500 rounds-per-minute out to a range of 1.5 kilometers and is mounted aft, just above the helicopter flight deck.
Forward of the main bridge and over the now-unused missile silo, there is a platform to mount a single Mk 38 Mod 2 25-mm chain gun, an autocannon with a 2.5 kilometer range. The Mk 38 is able to fire all US Navy-approved 25mm ammunition up to 180 rounds-per-minute. This gun can be seen in imagery supplies but, interestingly, is not listed on the USS Kauffman's official web site as part of the vessel's weapons profile.
Today, the Kaufman crew is made up of 17 officers and 198 enlisted personnel . Before 2004, the ship's carried 15 officers and 190 enlisted personnel as well as Harpoon missiles and SM-1MR Standard anti ship/air missiles in a 40 round magazine. The helicopter air wing remains the same, with 6 pilots and 15 crew for the two LAMPS III helicopters onboard.
The Sikorsky SH-60B Seahawk helicopter, or LAMPS (Light Airborne Multipurpose System) Mk III, is deployed on Perry-class frigates as well as Burke-, Spruance- and Kidd-class destroyers and Ticonderoga-class cruisers. The SH-60B Mk III was built an all-weather mission helicopter capable of detecting, identifying and interdiction of enemy submarines (ASW) and attacking ships (ASUW). Additionally, the helicopter has added missions of cargo replenishment between ships (VERTREP), Search and Rescue (SAR) with MEDical ECAVuation (MEDEVAC) and Naval GunFire Support (NGFS). Using the targeting system BUNO 162349, the LAMPS MK III helicopter employs the aforementioned Mk 2 Mod 7 "Penguin" missile used in the added role of ASUW attack.
For ASW sorties, the helicopter is equipped with a dipping sonar (AQS-18A) which can deploy a 1,575 foot cable some 60 feet over the ocean. The anomaly detector is connected to the LN-66 radar and a AKT-22 data link. To aid in the rescue mission role, there is a 600 kilogram limit hoist along with mounts for support machine guns and pods for 2.75-inch FFAR rockets for point suppression.
The USS Kauffman has a number of sensor arrays to perform the missions assigned. The MK 92 MOD 6 CORT Fire Control System (FCS) can track up to 128 targets simultaneously out to 512.1 miles (824.1 kilometers). Mounted under the bow is a sonar system (SQS-56 Hull Sonar System) with a range of 5.8 miles (9.3 kilometers). The system is a passive-active system that can track up to 16 targets at once. The ship can deploy her own towed array sonar (SQR-19) system. A long sonar trailing behind the ship can reportedly track up to thirty-two submarines.
To date, the USS Kauffman and her crews have been awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal, Navy Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Armed Forces Service Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Southwest Asia Service Medal, The Battle E, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Expeditionary Medal.