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Navy Draft RfP for Littoral Combat Ship Follow-on Frigate Due to Shipyards this Year

A modified Littoral Combat Ship design based on the Austal USA Independence-class. US Navy Image

A modified Littoral Combat Ship design based on the Austal USA Independence-class. US Navy Image

The Navy plans to release a draft request for proposal for its planned new class of frigate – based on one of the two existing Littoral Combat Ship hulls – to shipyards later this year, the Program Executive Officer LCS said.

The draft RfP will lay the groundwork for an eventual 2017 RfP that will outline the how the Navy will pick a single design for the frigate follow-on to the two Flight 0 variants of the Littoral Combat Ship – the Lockheed Martin Freedom-class (LCS-1) and the Austal USA Independence-class (LCS-2).

“We’ll be coming out with a request for proposal draft later on this year and full RfP next year to be able to get to, ‘here are some of the good ideas and the innovation the shipbuilders can come up with their proposal for what a frigate should look like against our requirements and capabilities’,” PEO LCS Rear Adm. Brian Antonio said last week.

The Navy and big Pentagon are now working through the acquisition strategy for the frigate following a December memo from Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to trim the Navy’s intended buy of 52 small surface combatants – split between existing LCS designs and a modified frigates – to 40 of the ships.

“Forty LCS/FF will exceed recent historical presence levels and will provide a far more modern and capable ship than the patrol coastals, minesweepers, and frigates that they will replace,” read the Carter memo.

Under the directive from Carter – codified in the release of the FY 2017 budget last month – the Navy will downselect to a single frigate design by 2019 from Lockheed or Austal.

As of last week, the overall acquisition plan for the Littoral Combat Ships and frigate going forward was before Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall awaiting approval, sources told USNI News.

“As we’re transitioning from LCS to frigate, we’re working through an acquisition strategy that’s going to allow us to reflect the execution of what was in the PB 17 budget and of course the Secretary of Defense direction. And we’ll do that in a way that makes the most sense from an acquisition strategy,” Antonio said.
“We’re continuing to work with both of the ship builders and with [Office of the Chief of Naval Operations] on what the requirements will be so we can marry those up and get to a focused multi-mission platform that addresses both the surface warfare and the [anti-submarine warfare] mission areas.”

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A modified Littoral Combat Ship design based on the Lockheed Martin Freedom-class. US Navy Image

The frigates – created by a separate LCS program restructure mandated by former SECDEF Chuck Hagel – will shed much of modular design of the Flight 0 LCS and place an emphasis on anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare.

Those changes include beefing up armor on the frigate, adding an over-the-horizon missile to tackle surface targets and up graded sensors.

News of the RfP plan comes as the Navy kicks off a new Littoral Combat System review panel to examine the ships’ operational, logistics and manning plans as more ships enter the fleet.