Ingalls Shipbuilding received a $117 million contract modification to continue procurement of long lead time material and advance construction activities on the last amphibious transport dock, the future Fort Lauderdale (LPD-28).
The March 31 contract announcement follows a December 4, 2015, award of $200 million to begin these early shipbuilding activities. The funding covers material including main engines, diesel generators, deck equipment, shafting, propellers, valves and other long-lead systems.
The Navy released a request for proposals for the ship’s design and construction in January, and Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley said in March that Ingalls Shipbuilding had submitted its proposal for construction of Fort Lauderdale. An award is expected by the end of the fiscal year, in September, and the ship is set for completion in September 2021.
There is a high level of interest in this ship within the Navy, industry and Congress – partly because it took a multiyear effort from lawmakers to secure funding for this previously-cut ship, and also because it will serve as a bridge between the LPD-17 design and the upcoming LX(R) dock landing ship replacement program.
In January, just after the Navy released the RFP, Director of Expeditionary Warfare Maj. Gen. Chris Owens said the ship “Is 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.” Fort Lauderdale will certainly have a traditional stick mast like the future LX(R) ships, instead of a composite mast like the rest of the LPDs – the Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Gulfport Composite Center of Excellence that built the composite masts has since shut down – but Ingalls Shipbuilding declined to discuss further changes to the LPD-28 design in January.
Though work on Fort Lauderdale is still nascent, industry is already advocating bumping up the start date of the first LX(R) ships. The Navy’s official program of record calls for buying the first LX(R) in Fiscal Year 2020, and then buying one a year starting in FY 2022. Industry has identified FY 2018 as the optimum year to begin LX(R), with LPD-28 being a FY 2016 ship, and has asked lawmakers to consider including advance procurement funding in the FY 2017 spending bill to support a 2018 start.