In the early 1970s the chief naval threat to the navies of NATO was the huge number of Soviet submarines. The United States Navy found that it needed a warship smaller and more economical than the increasingly larger and more expensive destroyer designs that had already exceeded the size of many World War Two cruisers. The design had to be capable of mass production and had to provide a good platform for ASW operations with a secondary AA mission. They were intended to defend against the large number of Soviet attack submarines in a low to moderate threat environment. Originally known as a Patrol Frigate, the design for the Oliver Hazard Perry guided missile frigate began in May 1973. In October 1973 Bath Iron Works in Maine received the contract to build the initial unit, USS Oliver Hazard Perry FFG-7, commonly called Fig-7. The design was meant to provide low cost convoy and amphibious force escorts and did not have to have the speed to keep up with aircraft carriers. Gas turbines were selected for the propulsion system. Two General Electric LM 2500 gas turbines, plus two 350 horsepower electric drive auxiliary propulsion units provided the power to propel the ships at over 28 knots with one shaft. One turbine alone will provide enough power for a speed of 25 knots. The electric auxiliary engines are in retractable pods and are capable of moving the ship at six knots. Although the ships were given a steel hull, as a weight saving measure, they had aluminum superstructures. The original units were 445 feet in overall length, had a 45 foot beam and a draft of 22 feet. They had a 4,200 nautical mile range at 20 knots. The ships active complement was initially about 15 officers and 179 enlisted personnel. As built, the ships of the class had a helicopter landing deck and a hangar capable of accommodating the ASW helicopters of the time. Construction on the Perry began in March 1975 and she was completed in November 1977.
Even before the design entered service, the USN was so impressed that it ordered eleven additional units in February 1976 from Bath Iron Works and additionally from the Todd Shipyard Corporation in their yards near Los Angeles and Seattle. With the new design the navy started adding new equipment, such as stabilizer fins, towed sonar and a new electronics fit. With this and cost overruns the program and unit cost escalated dramatically. In 1973 the USN was looking at a construction program for fifty ships with a unit cost of 64 million dollars and a total program cost of 3.2 billion. However, with the additions and the fact that the ships were much more expensive to build than anticipated, the unit cost came in at 194 million for a total program cost of slightly over 10 billion dollars. Since the navy was trying to replace large numbers of World War Two vintage destroyers quantity was needed. To provide the required numbers, the design had been pared to the bone for economy. A number of areas were neglected or minimized in the initial design. These included the initial selection of the AN/SQS hull mounted sonar, the selection of minimal space and stability in the design and the use of aluminum for the superstructure. The tight space and stability constraints greatly limited the ships’ ability to receive new weapons systems as they came on line and the aluminum superstructure certainly detracted from their survivability in combat operations. The fin stabilizers were back-fitted to the ships, starting with FFG-26 in 1982.
Because the margin in size had been minimized in the initial design to reduce expense of construction, new equipment could not be added unless a corresponding weight reduction was also made to the ships. It came down to the fact that there was no additional space or displacement margin available for equipment beyond that initially designed for the ship. In spite of their limited growth potential and aluminum superstructure, the Perry class frigates were still strong ships capable of withstanding significant combat damage. Two units were significantly damaged in operations in the Persian Gulf area and survived to be repaired and returned to fleet duty. USS Samuel B. Roberts FFG-58 struck a mine and USS Stark FFG-31 was hit by two Exocet cruise missiles on May 17, 1987. On April 14, 1988 the Samuel B. Roberts had hit a mine, which blew a nine-foot hole in her bottom. Intense fires followed on both occasions, which were aggravated by the aluminum superstructure. However, superb damage control saved the ships. Although Stark returned for repairs under her own power, the Roberts had to be transported home by a Dutch heavy lift ship.
With time their mission scope increased and missions such as independent operations to perform tasks as counter-drug surveillance and maritime interception operations were added to their portfolio. A significant change to the design came about as a result of the desire to further enhance their ASW capability. It was decided to give ships in the class an organic helicopter that could be stored inside a hangar of the ships. The SH-60B Seahawk LAMPS III helicopter, and the Tactical Towed Array System (TACTAS) were selected to be added to the design. To accomplish this the design had to be lengthened by 8 feet so that there would be room for a hangar. This variant is known as the long hull Perry and includes FFG-8, 28, 29, 32, 33, 36-61. The other units operated the less capable SH-2G Super SeaSprite LAMPS I helicopter. The longer hull also allows the space necessary for the towed sonar and increased electronics. The longer Seahawk required new gear and the long hull Perrys were equipped with the RAST (Recovery Assist Securing and Traversing) system. This system is designed to allow the ship to reel in the helicopter with a hook and winch system. This expands the pitch and roll envelope in which flight operations were permitted. FFG 8, 29, 32, and 33 were built as short-hull ships but later modified into long-hull ships. The active long-hull Perrys are being modified to reduce operating costs. The electrical generators have been replaced and the forward Mk 13 single arm missile launcher started being removed in 2003 because the Standard SM-1R missile is obsolescent, so the class is losing its AA capability, as well as the ability to operate the Harpoon SSM.
USS Ingraham FFG-61 was the last unit to be built in the Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigates. Laid down on March 30, 1987 at Todd Pacific Shipyards in San Pedro, California, she was launched on June 25, 1988 and commissioned on August 5, 1989. Other navies also operate the Perry class frigate. Australia bought four from Todd and had two more built in-country. Spain had six built and Taiwan had seven built. Starting in 1996 units of the class that had served in the USN started to be sold to other countries. Turkey and Egypt bought multiple units and Bahrain bought one. Another Perry was given to Poland. Many of the older short hull ships started going to the breakers starting with Oliver Hazard Perry FFG-7 in May 1999. As the newest unit of the class the Ingraham is scheduled to remain in the fleet until 2015, when it is scheduled to go to the Naval Reserve Force.
The Dragon USS Ingraham
As a model of the last of the Perry class, the Dragon 1:700 scale model is of course a model of a long hull, RAST equipped ship. The box does not state "Premium Edition" but it has all of the items that characterize a DML Premium Edition, such as a brass photo-etch fret, optional lower hull for full hull construction, and large decal sheet from Cartograph. Included in the box are three plastic sprues, brass photo-etch fret, decal sheet and instructions. As an added bonus, the kit includes a second model, a Pegasus class hydrofoil, multiple markings for which are also included on the decal sheet.
Sprue A – Hull and Superstructure
Count them! Not one but two ships are included with the DML USS Ingraham. Not only do you get the upper hull and superstructure for the long hull Perry, but also provided is a Pegasus class hydrofoil. The hull seems to run in accordance with usual DML practice for destroyer and frigate models. About the only feature on the hull sides is the anchor well on the starboard. There is no much detail on the sides of modern warships but in looking at photographs of units of the class, DML has missed a fitting at the top of the cutwater and a couple of small vertical strakes on each side of the hull. Hull sides could use clean up because there is some dimpling in a couple of places on each side of the bow. I think that these could probably be eliminated with some light sanding. The stern is open as there are two transom sterns provided. The one that is used is the longer version (A53) for the long hull variant. From overhead there is an open well over which a separate forecastle piece fits. The solid bow bulkhead has support ribbing on the inside face with a U-shaped cut-out at the end of the starboard bulkhead. Other than the detail at the bow, there really is not much detail to be found on the decks. That really is not that much surprising since most of the central part of the ship is covered by superstructure. DML has aided the modeler in placement of the superstructure because the area covered by the superstructure parts are slightly raised. Amidships are circular base plates for attachment of the torpedo tubes. At the stern the flight deck does not have the raised flight deck marking lines found in so many DML modern warship kits. Just like providing separate bilge keels, this is another great advance. Now you don’t have to sand those off before painting and putting on flight deck decals.
Again, as seems to be a pattern with DML modern warship models in this scale, The superstructure parts are packed with detail. The long superstructure sides have an interesting detail with every centimeter. Doors with dogs detail, inset louvers with grill detail, piping, vertical ladder, UNREP fittings and assorted other do-dads provide a lot of side detail. Equally the front face of the bridge is crammed with detail. The hangar can be built with either open or closed doors for those who wish to portray a Seahawk in the hangar. I don’t think DML intended this, as the instructions do not show that an option is involved. However, the fact that DML provided a separate part for the hangar doors and a separate part for the hangar face allows for this option. The separate forecastle piece does reflect the old practice of having raised lines for warning lines. However, these can be removed with sanding without damage to other detail. This detail, which include anchor hawse, windlass, anchor chain, bollards, open chocks and jack locator hole forward of the marking lines. Aft of the marking lines are found the circular raised platform for the missile mount, a deck access hatch, and two open chocks. The superstructure deck has fittings and detail along most of its length. The short stack is part of this molding and is very well done. There are hatches and all sorts of deck fittings on the aft portion of the deck. As with the forecastle, the warning lines around the perimeter of the gun mount are slightly raised. Unfortunately, unlike those lines on the forecastle, these lines go over the top of some deck detail. You’ll have to use care not to damage that detail when you remove those lines. The bridge part has good window detail, as well as top deck detail. The long transom part has a step down from the flight deck that was required to operate the RAST system. The gun mount that is found on A sprue is for the Pegasus and the parts on the weapons B sprue are for the Ingraham.
Other detail provided on A sprue includes optional plastic masts. These are rather nice parts for plastic parts but I still believe the option brass parts of the photo-etch would be better. Other parts are the optional mast platform, RAST equipment, davits, communication tower, small radars, overly thick ensign and jack staffs and an entire patrol hydrofoil. The Pegasus is a nice little model in its own right. The hull is divided at the waterline so a full hull version can be modeled. The upper hull includes the superstructure base with separate detailed bulkheads that are attached onto it. At the bow are raised warning lines and at the stern are marker rectangles for the Harpoon missile canisters. Also found are the bow and stern hydrofoil planes and arms. Gun mount, radome, exhaust stack and mast.
Sprue B – Weapons
Sprue C - Lower Hull Fittings & Stand
This sprue covers two areas, the lower hull fittings and a display stand for a full hull model. The lower hull fittings include propeller, propeller shaft, propeller shaft support strut, rudder, bilge keels and two fin stabilizers. The stand is comprised of four parts; base, two support pillars and USS Oliver Hazard Perry class nameplate, not the Ingraham. The lower hull is very nice for full hull builders. The distinctive sonar dome is present and it is especially welcome that DML produced separate thin bilge keels rather than continue the practice of molding keels the size of cheese wheels as part of the hull molding. Bravo! Do this with all of your kits. These bilge keels are thin and they do look good. There is also a smaller centerline keel towards the stern. As a single shaft ship, there are markings for locations of the two arms of the one shaft support with a locator slot for the single rudder aft of that. I am somewhat perplexed by four holes, two on each side. Two are for the fin stabilizers but those are apparently the aft two, aft of the bilge keels. If so, what are the two holes at the bow? Perhaps a former FiG rider can enlighten us. The instructions provide no clue.
Brass Photo-Etch Fret
One of the distinguishing aspects of a Dragon Premium Edition from their earlier releases of the model is the presence of a dedicated brass photo-etch fret for the model. Although the Ingraham box is not marked Premium Edition, it still contains a full brass photo-etch fret. For the Ingraham kit these parts include small lattice foremast, large lattice mainmast, two-part search radar for the top of the foremast, mainmast top platform with supports, mainmast Mid-level platform, and a full set of deck railing. I cannot overstate that the completed model will be far finer by using these brass parts in lieu of any plastic parts included, such as the masts and radar in the kit and by adding the brass parts, such as the railing, where no plastic equivalents are included. As the most extreme example there is the main radar. In plastic it is one solid chunk of plastic but with the included brass parts it is a very delicate. Just contrast brass parts MA4 and MA5 with plastic parts B33 and B45. The included brass fret significantly increases the detail of the finished model to almost every aspect of this model.
For the USS Ingraham kit the Italian firm of Cartograf prepared a new decal sheet. Included on this sheet are names and hull numbers for six members of the long hull Perry class: USS Simpson FFG-56, USS Reuben James FFG-57, USS Samuel B. Roberts FFG-58, USS Kauffman FFG-59, USS Rodney M. Davis FFG-60, and USS Ingraham FFG-61. The ship’s names are in black and are placed on the stern. The hull numbers are in LO-VIZ gray with black shading and come in four sizes. The instructions show using the largest size at the bow and the third largest at the stern but the sheet includes two other sized numbers in case of size change on the ships. A warning circle is provided for the forward missile mount, red arcs for the gun mount and some straight red warning lines. The flight deck has full markings with a landing circle, guide lines to the hangar, and white edge outline. White warning lines are provided for the bow in two sizes, one for the Ingraham and the smaller for the Pegasus. Hydrofoil decals also include names for Pegasus, Hercules and Taurus. Also included on the sheet are helicopter markings, two ensigns, and two jacks.
The instructions are in the standard DML format with one back-printed sheet, folded into six pages. Page one has drawings of all of the parts with unused plastic parts shaded in blue. Almost all parts are used, except one of the two transoms provided on sprue A and about 55% of the parts on the weapons sprue B. Also remember that some of the unshaded plastic parts may not be used if you substitute the included brass part. Page two has text instructions in English, Japanese, Chinese, German, Spanish and French. This page also includes a listing of the colors needed to paint the model with GSI Creos Corporation Mr. Colour and Model Master Color paint numbers. The bottom half shows aft superstructure assembly. Page three includes both mast assemblies in plastic or brass versions. I vote for the brass. Page four is of forward superstructure subassemblies, transom attachment and lower hull assembly. Page five continues superstructure subassemblies and helicopter assembly, plus assembly of the included hydrofoil. Page six is a profile and plan of the frigate and hydrofoil showing decal placement. Throughout these instructions Dragon illustrates which plastic parts have brass replacements, designated by a "MA" nomenclature.
With the 1:700 scale USS Ingraham FFG-61, RAST frigate gives you a plastic and brass model of the last of the Perry class frigates, plus a bonus Pegasus hydrofoil. As a long hull variant of the class, you get the Seahawk ASW helicopter, brass photo-etch fret and decals for FFG-56 through FFG-61, which includes not only the Ingraham but also the mine damaged Samuel B. Roberts. Dragon did not label this kit as a Premium Edition but it has all of the hallmarks of one.