On routine patrol in the Arabian Gulf when Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, the USS Taylor (FFG 50) and USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49) were part of a small flotilla of ships that served as the original participants of Operation Desert Shield, which helped dissuade further Iraqi offensive action until the coalition assembled and transitioned to offensive action under Operation Desert Storm. While the coalition force amassed, the two FFGs served to implement the United Nations authorized blockade of Iraq.
During Desert Storm, USS Nicholas (FFG 47) and the Kuwaiti fast attack craft Istiqlal (P 5702) conducted the first surface engagement of the war on Jan. 18, 1991. Supporting combat search and rescue operations for the air campaign, Nicholas employed her Seahawk helicopters to scout the Dorrah oilfield.
Despite nearby Iraqi combatant ships and aircraft armed with Exocet missiles, Nicholas and Istiqlal sailed within a mile of the southern platforms. Once in range, the Nicholas' helicopters launched precision-guided missiles that destroyed enemy positions on the two platforms. As a result the frigate took the first 23 enemy prisoners of war.
Nicholas later attacked Iraqi patrol boats operating less than a mile from the Kuwaiti coast, and sank or heavily damaged four enemy craft.
The ships themselves demonstrated in battle they were also capable of withstanding considerable damage. Their stoutness was proven when USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) struck a mine, and USS Stark (FFG 37) was hit by two Exocet cruise missiles, both patrolling the Arabian Gulf at the time.
In the case of the Samuel B. Roberts' mine strike, April 14, 1988, the U.S. launched Operation Praying Mantis where coalition air and surface units destroyed the two Iranian oil rigs and also Iranian units attempting to counter-attack U.S. forces.
During the operation the USS Simpson (FFG 56) participated in destroying the 147-foot missile patrol boat Joshan (P 225), avenging the damage inflicted on her sister ship. In fact, by the end of the operation, U.S. air and surface units had sunk, or severely damaged, half of Iran's operational fleet.
The OHP class proved itself worthy in a different war the U.S. has been waging for decades: Stemming the tide of illegal narcotics entering the nation from the sea. The frigates proved to be the platform of choice, and their presence resulted in dozens and dozens of drug seizures worth an estimated street value measured in billions of dollars.
While the ships and crews have proven worthy, the reality remained that they lacked the multi-mission capabilities necessary for modern surface combatants faced with increasingly available high-technology threats. Their design also offered limited capacity for change.
In time, arguably because of their relatively diminutive status, the ships and crews serving in the class very much came to embody the same hallmarks of determination, gumption, self-reliance and surprising effectiveness as their namesake, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry (1785 - 1819). When war with Great Britain was declared on June 18, 1812, Perry was assigned to what he considered an insignificant command of small gunboats at Newport. While his fellow officers gained glory on sleek vessels like the Constitution and Hornet, Perry was dissatisfied with the opportunity given him. After petitioning the Navy Department, he earned assignment to complete construction and soon after successfully lead a flotilla in the Battle of Lake Erie, forever earning a place in Navy history.
The U.S. Navy retains the 218 year old frigate USS Constitution, currently in dry dock undergoing a planned maintenance availability.