The Navy signed a $1.4 billion contract with Ingalls Shipbuilding for the LPD-29 San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock.
The ship will be the 13th in a class that has varied in planned size over the years but as of just a few years ago was meant to stop at 11.
With a hot production line often delivering ships on time or early, the Navy and lawmakers added the future Fort Lauderdale (LPD-28) and then LPD-29 to the plans to help bridge the production line between the San Antonio-class LPDs and the LPD-based LX(R)s that will replace the aging dock landing ships (LSD-41/49).
Program manager Capt. Brian Metcalf said last month at the Surface Navy Association annual symposium that his office had reached a handshake agreement with Ingalls over the holidays and hoped to sign the paperwork by the first week in February. Metcalf called this a “sporty” pace for getting a new ship contract, after the funding in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget for the ship was only made available to him in March 2017 – about nine months before the agreement was reached and less than a year ahead of finalizing and announcing the contract.
Lawmakers sought to provide some funding for either an LPD-30 or the first LX(R) in FY 2018, this current fiscal year, though the spending plan has still not been approved by Congress. House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee chairman Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) this week called finalizing the funding for that ship a top priority for Congress.
Maj. Gen. David Coffman, the director of expeditionary warfare on the chief of naval operations’ staff (OPNAV N95), said at the SNA conference that he intended for the FY 2018 funding to buy the first LX(R), even though many in the Navy and in Congress have referred to it as LPD-30 funding as a sort of short-hand.
Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., and General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego will compete for the LX(R) construction contract, though it is generally assumed that Ingalls will build those ships to leverage the hot LPD production line.