USS Stark (FFG-31)

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USS Stark FFG-31
USS Stark (FFG-31)
United States
Name: Stark
Namesake: Admiral Harold Rainsford Stark
Awarded: 23 January 1978
Builder: Todd Pacific Shipyards, Seattle, Washington
Laid down: 24 August 1979
Launched: 30 May 1980
Commissioned: 23 October 1982
Decommissioned: 7 May 1999
Struck: 7 May 1999
Homeport: Naval Station Mayport (former)
Motto: Strength for Freedom
Fate: Scrapped 2006
Badge: FFG-31 COA.png
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate
Displacement: 4,100 long tons (4,200 t), full load
Length: 445 feet (136 m), overall
Beam: 45 feet (14 m)
Draft: 22 feet (6.7 m)
Speed: over 29 knots (54 km/h)
Range: 5,000 nautical miles at 18 knots (9,300 km at 33 km/h)
Complement: 15 officers and 190 enlisted, plus SH-60 LAMPS detachment of roughly six officer pilots and 15 enlisted maintainers
Sensors and
processing systems:
Electronic warfare
& decoys:
Aircraft carried: 1 × SH-2F LAMPS I[2]
Notes: Short Deck Variant, no Towed Array

USS Stark (FFG-31), 23rd ship of the Oliver Hazard Perry class of guided-missile frigates, was named for Admiral Harold Rainsford Stark (1880–1972). Ordered from Todd Pacific Shipyards in Seattle, Washington, on 23 January 1978, Stark was laid down on 24 August 1979, launched on 30 May 1980, and commissioned on 23 October 1982 with CDR Terence W. Costello commanding. In 1987, an Iraqi jet fired two missiles at Stark, killing 37 U.S. sailors on board. Decommissioned on 7 May 1999, Stark was scrapped in 2006.

Missile attack

USS Stark was deployed to the Middle East Force in 1984 and 1987. Captain Glenn R. Brindel was the commanding officer during the 1987 deployment. The ship was struck on 17 May 1987 by two Exocet anti-ship missiles during the Iran–Iraq War fired from an Iraqi Dassault Mirage F1[3][4] aircraft. The Reagan administration, however, attributed the blame to Iran for its alleged belligerence in the underlying conflict.[5] The plane had taken off from Shaibah (in Iraq) at 20:00 and had flown south into the Persian Gulf. The pilot fired the first Exocet missile from a range of 22.5 nautical miles (41.7 km), and the second from 15.5 nautical miles (28.7 km), just about the time Stark issued a standard warning by radio.[6] The frigate did not detect the missiles with radar; warning was given by the lookout only moments before the missiles struck.[3] The first penetrated the port-side hull and failed to detonate, but left flaming rocket fuel in its path. The second entered at almost the same point, and, leaving a 3-by-4-meter (10 by 13 ft) gash, exploded in crew quarters. 37 sailors were killed and 21 were injured.[3]

Stark listing following two hits by Exocet missiles.

No weapons were fired in defense of Stark. The Phalanx CIWS remained in standby mode, Mark 36 SRBOC countermeasures were not armed until seconds before the missile hit. The attacking Exocet missiles and Mirage aircraft were in a blindspot of the STIR fire control director (Separate tracking and illumination Radar, part of the Mk 92 Guided Missile Fire Control System), and the Oto Melara Mk 75 76 mm/62 caliber naval gun, but in the clear for the MK 92 CAS (Combined Antenna System, primary search and tracking radar of the Mk 92 Guided Missile Fire Control System) and the Mk 13 Mod 4 single-arm launcher. The ship failed to maneuver to bring its Mk 75 to bear before the first missile hit.[3]

On fire and listing, the frigate was brought under control by its crew during the night. The ship made its way to Bahrain where, after temporary repairs by the destroyer tender USS Acadia to make her seaworthy,[7] she returned to her home port of Naval Station Mayport, under her own power. The ship was eventually repaired at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Mississippi for $142 million.

A view of external damage to the port side.

It is unknown whether Iraqi leaders authorized the attack. Initial claims by the Iraqi government (that Stark was inside the Iran–Iraq War zone) were shown to be false. The motives and orders of the pilot remain unanswered. American officials have claimed he was executed, but an ex-Iraqi Air Force commander later said that the pilot who attacked Stark was not punished, and remained alive.[8]

Citing lapses in training requirements and lax procedures, the U.S. Navy's board of inquiry relieved Captain Brindel of command and recommended him for court-martial, along with Tactical Action Officer Lieutenant Basil E. Moncrief. Instead, Brindel and Moncrief received non-judicial punishment from Admiral Frank B. Kelso II and letters of reprimand. Both opted for early retirement, while Executive Officer Lieutenant Commander Raymond Gajan Jr. was detached for cause and received a letter of admonition.[9]


Stark was part of the Standing Naval Forces Atlantic Fleet in 1990 before returning to the Middle East Force in 1991. She was attached to UNITAS in 1993 and took part in Operation Uphold Democracy and Operation Able Vigil in 1994. In 1995, she returned to the Middle East Force before serving with the Standing Naval Forces, Atlantic (STANAVFORLANT) in 1997 and in 1998.

Stark was decommissioned on 7 May 1999. A scrapping contract was awarded to Metro Machine Corp. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 7 October 2005. The ship was reported scrapped on 21 June 2006.[10] Her stern plate was saved and donated to the Naval Station Mayport.[11]


  1. ^ "USS Stark (FFG 31)". Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  2. ^ "USS Stark (FFG 31)". Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d Formal Investigation into the Circumstances Surrounding the Attack of the USS Stark in 1987
  4. ^ Desert Storm at sea: what the Navy really did by Marvin Pokrant, p. 43.
  5. ^ Bacevich, Andrew (2016). America's War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History. Random House.
  6. ^ Stephen Andrew Kelley (June 2007). "Better Lucky Than Good: Operation Earnest Will as Gunboat Diplomacy" (PDF). Naval Postgraduate School. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 August 2007. Retrieved 9 November 2007. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. ^ Chuck (31 May 2010). "A Stark Reminder".
  8. ^ Fisk, Robert (2005). The Great War For Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East. Knopf Publishing.
  9. ^ Cushman Jr, John H. (28 July 1987). "Navy Forgoes Courts-Martial for Officers of Stark". The New York Times.
  10. ^ Naval Vessel Register. STARK (FFG 31). Retrieved 4 April 2007.
  11. ^ Lopez, Michael (20 May 2016). "Mayport, Fla., remembers fallen shipmates at Stark Memorial". Aerotech News and Review.

This article includes information collected from the Naval Vessel Register, which, as a U.S. government publication, is in the public domain. The entry can be found here.

Further reading

  • Levinson, Jeffrey L. and Randy L. Edwards (1997). Missile Inbound. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-517-9.
  • Wise, Harold Lee (2007). Inside the Danger Zone: The U.S. Military in the Persian Gulf 1987–88. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-970-3.
  • United States. Congress. House. Committee on Armed Services (1987). Report on the Staff Investigation into the Iraqi Attack on the USS Stark of the Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, One Hundredth Congress, First Session. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

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