The Navy released its request for proposals for the last San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock (LPD-17), bringing the service one step closer to wrapping up the ship class and transitioning into a follow-on LX(R) program.
Maj. Gen. Chris Owens, director of expeditionary warfare, said Tuesday at the annual Surface Navy Association national symposium that the Navy “just issued a request for proposal for LPD-28, which will be our 12th LPD. It’s going to be slightly different from the rest of the LPD-17 class, and it’s going to be a bridge to what will become the replacement to the Whidbey Island-class LSDs.”
Among the differences between LPD-28 and its 11 sister ships will be the mast. Shipbuilder Ingalls Industries used a composite mast built at its now-closed Gulfport Composite Center of Excellence. Without the ability to build composite metal structures, the Ingalls Shipbuilding will use a traditional stick mast instead, sacrificing some of the radar and communications systems’ performance improvements the composite enclosing brought.
Ingalls Shipbuilding president Brian Cuccias told reporters Wednesday morning that there would be “several” modifications on LPD-28 compared to the rest of the class, but he could not address specifically how the ship would be different. He said the company received the RFP last week and was still going through the document to understand exactly what the Navy is looking for.
He did, however, agree with Owens that LPD-28 would serve as a bridge to the LX(R) dock landing ship replacement. Though Ingalls will have to compete for the contract to build LX(R), Cuccias said Ingalls had the advantage of a hot LPD production line – which would be used for LX(R), a scaled-down version of the LPD design.
“Hot production lines mean affordability. You break hot production lines, like when the Arleigh Burkes stopped – there was an effect in that,” he said. Ingalls, along with General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, builds the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers. “Keeping a hot production line really makes sense for the Marines, it makes sense for the Navy and it makes sense for us.”
Nine of the 12 LPDs have already joined the fleet, and all the previous Austin-class LPDs have retired. John P. Murtha (LPD-26) will commission later this year and Portland (LPD-27) will commission in 2017.