The Navy on Friday awarded contracts to Lockheed Martin and Austal USA to build one Littoral Combat Ship each, completing the service’s 2017 LCS buy after previously awarding Austal a contract for another LCS earlier this year.
In June the Navy awarded Austal a contract for Independence-variant LCS-28 and said it was still negotiating with Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin, who partners with Fincantieri’s Marinette Marine shipyard to build the Freedom-variant ships, would be guaranteed at least one ship in 2017, and the builder of the third 2017 ship was undecided at the time, Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman Alan Baribeau told USNI News at the time. The award of those two ships was announced Oct. 6, a week into the new fiscal year.
The contract awards cover LCS-27 for Lockheed Martin and LCS-30 for Austal – Lockheed’s 14th ship in the program so far, and Austal’s 15th. The Navy did not announce the actual value of either contract due to the ongoing competition between Austal and Lockheed Martin for the remaining LCSs and the frigate program, but rather noted that both fall below the congressionally mandated cost cap of $584,200,000.
“We’re honored to be awarded this contract in such a highly competitive environment,” Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle said in an Oct. 8 news release.
“This further supports the Navy’s recognition of Austal as a key component in building their 355-ship fleet, which is a testament to the hard work and commitment of our talented employees and dedicated supplier network.”
Austal delivered its sixth LCS, Omaha (LCS-12) to the Navy last month, and will begin construction on LCS-30 in 2019.
Lockheed Martin has delivered five LCSs, after Little Rock (LCS-9) delivered last month, and has seven in various stages of construction and two more in long-lead production.
“We are excited to continue our partnership with the U.S. Navy to build and deliver these capable ships to the fleet,” Joe DePietro, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of small surface combatants and ship systems, said in an Oct. 9 company news release.
“With the Freedom-variant now in serial production, our team is increasing efficiency with each ship produced and working to maintain ship and program affordability.”
It is still unclear how many LCSs the Navy will buy in the current fiscal year, 2018. The Navy asked for one ship in its budget request to Congress, but the next day the Trump Administration told lawmakers it wanted a second one. Program officials have been clear that the Navy needs to buy three hulls a year to keep Lockheed Martin’s and Austal’s production lines running until a downselect can be made for the frigate program.