This new and powerful class of escort vessels was developed from the earlier Bronstein class. These ten ships were intended solely for ASW operations. These ships exceeded some of the world's destroyers in size and ASW capability, but were designated as frigates by virtue of their single propeller shaft and limited speed. Originally classified as destroyer escorts (DE), they were reclassified as frigates on 30 June 1975. All but two of these ships were fitted to operate LAMPS helicopters. Most of these ships were built with 2 Mk 25 torpedo tubes built into their transom for launching wire-guided ASW torpedoes, but they were removed from the earlier ships and deleted in the later ships.
The Garcia class escorts were designed as ocean going ASW ships, primarily convoy escorts, to replace the destroyer escort ships left over from World War II. They superseded in the two Bronstein class escorts built under the FY1960 program. The first two ships were authorized in FY1961, followed by three in FY1962, and five in FY1963. Ten Knox class frigates would supersede this program in FY1964.
The ten Garcia class frigates were almost 45 feet longer and 250 tons heavier than the Bronstein class that they superseded in construction. The 3-inch gun armament of the Bronsteins were abandoned in favor of 2 single Mk30 5-inch/38 guns; one mounted on the bow and one on the superstructure amidships driven by the Mk56 gunfire control system and SPG-35 fire control radar. The hangars were originally designed to accommodate the DASH unmanned helicopter which never reached the fleet. All but DE-1048 and 1050 were modified to handle the LAMPS (SH-2D Seasprite) helicopter between 1972-75. Bradley (DE-1041) received the Mk25 BPDMS Sea Sparrow 8-tube launcher firing modified radar guided Sparrow missiles in 1967-68 but this launcher was subsequently removed and installed on the Forrestal (CV-59).
As in the Bronstein class, the Garcia's were fitted with the SPS-10 and 40 search radars. The first five units received the SQS-26AXR bow mounted sonar, the second five received the SQS-26 BR model sonar. As built, they had two fixed Mk25 torpedo mounts which fired wire-guided ASW torpedoes but these were removed and the two triple Mk32 exterior mounts were installed (firing the Mk46 lightweight torpedo). A Mk16 8-tube ASROC launcher was situated behind A-turret forward mated to the Mk114 ASW Fire Control System. The last five ships incorporated an automatic ASROC reloading system.
Though superseded by the Knox design, these frigates were powerful and useful platforms during the Cold War; packing a surface gun armament equal to those used on destroyers and cruisers. The Knox class would use a reduced gun armament in favor of other systems.
All have been decommissioned and stricken from the Navy. Eight Garcia class were inactivated in 1988-89 with four being transferred to Pakistan and four to Brazil. The remaining two were inactivated in 1992 and were sold for scrap by the Maritime Administration in July 1995.
GARCIA (DE-1040), the lead ship, was launched 31 October 1963, by Bethlehem Steel Co., San Francisco, Calif. For the remainder of 1965 and through 1966, GARCIA operated out of Newport perfecting her ASW and sonar techniques. GARCIA was transferred to Pakistan on 31 January 1989, GARCIA served that nation as frigate SAIF (F-264). The Para (formerly the USS Albert David), Paraiba (formerly the USS Davidson), and Parana (formerly the USS Sample) are former Garcia Class frigates that were sold to the Brazilian navy.
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