USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.

Gearing Class FRAM Destroyer

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By Rob Mackie

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18 photos of the
USS Jospeh P. Kennedy, Jr. await you in the Photo Gallery, including 4 new ones added

18 July 1999



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Click this image to see a nice USN photo of a
Gearing FRAM DD underway


The Jim Shirley Productions   Gearing FRAM destroyers in both 1/700 and 1/350 are no longer in production.You can read a review of the Jim Shirley 1/700 kit by clicking here.

The JAG Collective 1/700 Gearing FRAM Kit is now in production. This is an all new and improved master. Click here for a first look

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Launched on 26 July 1945 from the Bethlehem Steel Company’s Quincy, Massachusetts yard, the USS Joseph P. Kennedy was one of 96 Gearing class destroyers. These ships, the ultimate in WW II US destroyer development, built on the lessons learned in the preceding Fletcher class. They were 14 feet longer, and carried their 5" gun armament in three twin turrets, instead of the five single turrets of the Fletcher destroyers. The later Gearings carried one instead of two quintuple torpedo tubes, but a much heavier 20mm and 40mm anti-aircraft fit. This was in keeping with the increased importance of the destroyer as an air defense platform.

Subsequent to World War II the destroyer’s mission changed. The build up of Soviet submarine forces in the 1950s necessitated the development of new anti-submarine weapons. The Gearing destroyers were approaching obsolescence, so it was decided to re-build them as anti-submarine destroyers, hence the FRAM (Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization) program.

The Kennedy’s FRAM refit took 18 months and was completed in 1962. All secondary armament was removed, as well as No. 2 5" turret, which was replaced by two MK 32 triple torpedo tube launchers. The superstructure was extensively rebuilt of aluminum, the bridge enclosed and a new CIC (Combat Information Center) built between the pilothouse and the forward funnel. An ASROC (Anti Submarine ROCket) launcher was fitted between the funnels. This weapon fired a rocket assisted homing torpedo and greatly increased the range at which the ship could engage submarines. A hangar and ASROC reload facility was constructed aft of the rear funnel, as well as a landing platform for the DASH (Drone Anti Submarine Helicopter).

The DASH concept was a dismal failure. These unmanned drone helicopters, designed to drop homing torpedoes at great distances from the ship, were both difficult to control and unreliable. They were eventually deleted from the weapon complement. In addition to the structural and weapons changes, FRAM destroyers received modernized sonar and electronics. It is a testament to the robustness of the Gearing design that the Joseph P. Kennedy served almost continuously from her 1946 commissioning until 1978. The FRAM program was designed to both extend her life and adapt her to a changing world. It succeeded admirably.

The Ship
I photographed the USS Joseph P. Kennedy at the Battleship Cove Museum in Fall River, Massachusetts. I concentrated on details of interest to the ship modeler. The vessel is in an essentially unaltered FRAM configuration, so these photos should be useful in building and detailing the 1/700 Jim Shirley Productions Gearing Fram kit, reviewed elsewhere in Warship.