This post has been updated to include comment from Ingalls Shipbuilding.
The Navy awarded a contract to General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. (NASSCO) for six John Lewis-class (T-AO-205) fleet oilers and a contract to Ingalls Shipbuilding for the LHA-8 amphibious assault ship, wrapping up a year-and-a-half-long effort to preserve the shipbuilding industrial base.
The Ingalls contract will buy the LHA-8 ship, the first of the new big decks to have a well deck inserted back into the design.
The Navy is awarding $272.5 million now for the planning, advanced engineering, and procurement of long lead time material in support of the ship. Contract options, if exercised, would bring the total planning, design and construction work to more than $3.1 billion.
USS America (LHA-6) and the future Tripoli (LHA-7) are aviation-enhanced ships that sacrifice the ability to launch surface craft in favor of having more space to maintain the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter. With Marine Corps ground vehicles getting larger and heavier, in some cases precluding air lift from ship to shore, the Navy decided to add the well deck back in for LHA-8 and beyond. Ingalls is the only current builder of amphibious ships and would use that experience to balance aviation and surface connector needs in this next big-deck.
“This award adds to the successful amphibious shipbuilding legacy at Ingalls since the 1950s,” Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias said in a company statement.
“Our shipbuilders have proven this success by delivering 14 vital and capable large-deck warships to our nation’s amphibious fleet. This contract shows the Navy’s confidence in our ability to build these ships to the highest-quality standards and to do so affordably for the American taxpayers. We look forward to delivering another great ship.”
The NASSCO contract covers the first six of a planned 17 replacement fleet oilers. The Navy will spend $640 million for the lead ship this fiscal year (FY 2016) and will award the following five to NASSCO as Congress appropriates the money. The oilers will have the capacity to carry 156,000 barrels of oil and will also have significant dry cargo carrying capacity, aviation capability and will reach a speed of 20 knots.
“We are pleased to be building the next generation of oilers and participating in the future design efforts of the LX(R), two very important ship programs for the fleet,” Fred Harris, president of General Dynamics NASSCO and Bath Iron Works, said in a company statement. “With this award, we will now proceed with engineering and design work.”
The Navy released the request for proposals for the oilers and the big-deck last July, with both companies having to bid on both ships. The Navy would award one contract to each builder, and the better combined bid would win the majority of contract design engineering man hours for the next-generation LX(R) amphibious dock landing ship replacement.
“This approach balances the Navy’s commitment to maintaining a viable shipbuilding industrial base while aggressively pursuing competition,” Navy spokeswoman Capt. Thurraya Kent told USNI News last February when the dual-contract strategy was announced.
A Naval Sea Systems Command statement notes that, if all options are exercised, “the cumulative value of the contract awards [would be] $3,156,828,444 and $3,133,852,637 to NASSCO and Ingalls, respectively.”
Many in industry believed Ingalls would end up with the LHA contract due to its experience in building amphibious ships, while NASSCO has built various Military Sealift Command-operated USNS ships in recent years, including 14 T-AKE dry cargo ships, two Expeditionary Transfer Docks (ESDs) and one Expeditionary Mobile Base (ESB).
“This strategy reinforces the Navy’s commitment to a culture of affordability that emphasizes competition while maintaining our critical shipbuilding industrial base,” Jay Stefany, executive director for Amphibious, Auxiliary, and Sealift Programs in Program Executive Office Ships, said in the statement.
“The approach provides best value to the taxpayers, supports our industry partners, and provides the foundation for future warfighting capabilities.”