The USS Oliver Hazard Perry was the first of its 51-ship class — at the time, the largest U.S. Navy class since World War II. The effort to design and build a new open-ocean escort vessel was launched in 1970 by then-Chief of Naval Operation Elmo Zumwalt, who sought to replace a large number of WWII-era warships in affordable fashion. The Perrys were not universally welcomed; many admirals argued that the Navy should pour its shipbuilding funds into more sophisticated, yet fewer ships. But Zumwalt feared that path would leave the fleet with too few hulls to do its mission.
The contest to design the frigates was won by Bath Iron Works, and the program became a model for other U.S. shipbuilders when it began delivering ships on time and under budget. The USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) would be the third-to-last of the class.