Honest officer, I was FRAMed!

By Bob Orleck

If you are fortunate enough to have photographs of USS ORLECK (DD 886) pre December 1962 and post November, 1963, if you didn’t know better you would surely think they were two different vessels. The 1962 picture shows the original configuration of USS ORLECK before it was FRAMed and 1963 picture shows her after she underwent the major FRAM changes.

We are more familiar today than we were in the past of how fast things become obsolete. However, after 15 or so years the Gearing-class destroyers were getting old and would soon lose their usefulness. After a study was conducted regarding fleet readiness, the Secretary of the Navy determined that the fleet was not in an acceptable state of readiness. The decision was either to replace them with newer, higher tech ships or come up with a rehabilitation and modernization program to bring them up-to-snuff. Since money was not available for such a large replacement of vessels, the Navy opted for the upgrading of the present fleet that they hoped would give an addition 8 years life. So from March, 1961-August 1965, in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Norfolk, Charleston, Puget Sound, Mare Island, San Francisco, Long Beach and Pearl Harbor Navy Yards, 96 Gearing class destroyers underwent the FRAM (Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization) process.

The extensive FRAM MK 1 changes resulted in the latest equipment and weapons found on destroyers, such as the ASROC and DASH systems. This work was begun on ORLECK December, 1962 at the Long Beach, California Naval Shipyard and was completed November 4, 1963. Dennis Gange was on board from June 1963 and saw it this way: “The three 5″/38 twins were removed, the 40MM twins and the 40MM Quads were removed. The five 21 inch torpedo tubes were removed. The upper superstructure of steel was removed down to the main deck. The new upper superstructure was of a lightweight aluminum…The armament that was put on the ORLECK while in the shipyards were the two 5″/38 twins, one gun mount forward on the ship’s main deck, the other one aft on the stern. Two 50 caliber machine guns, with mounts on both port and starboard, six Mark 44 torpedo tubes. Eight ASROC tubes, the anti-submarine rocket launchers were installed between the two smoke stacks on the main deck. The rocket magazine was behind the second smoke stack on the main deck. The DASH helio deck and hanger were on the 01 deck right above the ASROC magazine. There were two drones for launching torpedoes against submarines. They were like small helicopters, remote control from helio deck control station. There was one flight officer on board the ship for flying these drones.”

I strongly recommend the reading of “THE GEARING CLASS DESTROYER” by Norman Friedman, Arnold S. Lott, LCDR, USN (Ret.), and Robert F. Sumrall, HTC, USNR. Written using the USS JOSEPH P. KENNEDY, JR. (DD 850) as its example of a Gearing Class Destroyer, it does a fine job of setting out the evolutionary history of this tremendous class of warships. Copies of this book are available by writing USS MASSACHUSETTS MEMORIAL COMMITTEE, INC., BATTLESHIP COVE, FALL RIVER, MASSACHUSETTS 02721. The author discusses in detail the design, the armaments, the torpedoes, ASW weapons and sensors, radar, propulsion, FRAM (Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization). USS ORLECK went through basically the same changes as did the KENNEDY so the reading of this book provides much information about our beloved ship. The subjects covered therein are not the present purpose of this attempt at history. What is important is to understand that the ORLECK did go through the evolution, experienced FRAMing and other modifications because of the change in warfare tactics and ultimately became a ship that had equipment dedicated not only to anti-aircraft but to anti-submarine warfare. In addition to the use of drones for anti-submarine warfare, ORLECK also used them as Snoopies and was the last ship to discontinue use of this relative unsuccessful weapon.

After FRAMing, USS ORLECK (DD 886) was basically a new ship. The intent was for it to last about another 8 years which would have extended its decommissioning to 1971. Twenty-seven years later she was still steaming the seas of the world protecting our freedom. This is testimony that the decisions made to FRAM and the work that was completed were appropriate and well done. Pacific operations involved fast carrier task forces and required that their escorts also be high speed in order to keep up with the those carriers. FRAMing didn’t slow ORLECK down because she was known to do 38 knots.

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