Originally built as "Gearing Class" Destroyers, Eight of this class were converted from DDs to Carpenter Class DDKs in April 1949. This program began when the Carpenter was moved to Newport News, Virginia from Consolidated Steel, Orange, Texas and completed with the Robert A. Owens completed at Bath, Maine, as Hunter-Killer Destroyers by mid December 1949. Another six ships were completed under the 1949 program at the Mare Island Navy yard resulting in a total of eight Carpenter Class ships rated as DDKs until March 4, 1950, when the DDE and DDK types merged. All eight vessels were reclassified as DD on June 30, 1962.
These DDK ships were completed and converted from the former Gearing class DD in order to form groups for the purpose of long and short-range interception of submarines before they could attack convoys. This DDK conversion consisted of equipment specifically designed to locate enemy submarines, track and destroy them which consisted of the Mk 100 Underwater Fire control system to coordinate the firing of the MK 23 torpedo launchers. Torpedo storage consisted of 20, Mk 35 or Mk 37 homing torpedoes. The Mk-56 fire control system controlled the MK 15 trainable Hedgehog weapons projector (Weapon B) which was installed where usually the second forward 5-inch mount would be located (mount 52) on a standard GEARING.
These ships were eventually equipped with the MK 108 Weapon A which fired a fast-sinking 250-lb charge approximately 1000 yards. Combined with the latest radar of the time, the CARPENTER class ships had the highest Anti-Submarine warfare (ASW) capability of any destroyer class prior to FRAM . While Hedgehog was eventually removed prior to FRAM as Weapon A was more effective, the CARPENTER class ships set the strategy for greater stand-off weapons deployment which would be expanded in the FRAM program.
FRAM was different for the CARPENTER class versus the other GEARING variants in that the CARPENTER class were eventually equipped with two 3-inch / 70 caliber enclosed gun mounts with the MK 15 Hedgehog removed, prior to FRAM. These were not the standard guns for the GEARING class but deemed adequate to the CARPENTER class role of extensive ASW. Further the FRAM level was not the same for this small class of vessels:
When the Carpenter Class received FRAM in FY 1961-1962, FRAM replaced the older 3-inch gun mounts with the standard 5-inch/38 caliber gun mounts. The Carpenter and Robert A. Owens lost their aft gun mount (mount 53) when the DASH hangar and flight deck was installed whereas the others of this class kept them. Further, while BERRY, KEPPLER, LLOYD THOMAS, McCAFFERY and NORRIS got to keep their aft 5-inch/38 caliber gun mount (mount 53), they did not get ASROC as CARPENTER and ROBERT A. OWENS did.
USS McCaffery (DD-860) undergoing DDK conversion along side USS Fred T. Berry (DD-858). Shown at Mare Island Navy Yard on April 28, 1949
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