Home » Budget Industry » NAVSEA Picks Swiftships LLC to Design, Build LCU Replacement in $18M Contract Award


NAVSEA Picks Swiftships LLC to Design, Build LCU Replacement in $18M Contract Award

Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 1656 approaches the well deck of the amphibious dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) on Oct. 5, 2017, in the Caribbean Sea. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Maria to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. US Navy Photo

The Navy awarded Louisiana-based Swiftships, LLC an $18-million contract for the detail design and construction of the first Landing Craft Utility (LCU-1700) surface connector, a program that has seen both timeline acceleration efforts and some slow-downs over the past two years.

The LCU-1700 is meant to be a “modified repeat” that looks and functions much like its predecessor, the LCU-1610 that dates back to the late 1950s, with the addition of some improvements to boost reliability and maintainability, according to the service

The LCU replacement effort had been slated to start in 2018, but in late 2015 lawmakers chose to bump up the funding and get started on design efforts with Fiscal Year 2016 dollars – at that time, the average age of the 32 LCUs in the fleet was 43 years, well beyond the 25-year life the craft were built for, creating a readiness challenge for the amphibious force.

To further speed up the design, construction and delivery of the new craft, the program office chose to skip the conventional contract design process and instead conduct a government-led design effort that incorporated industry feedback via a “modified performance specification” strategy throughout the design effort.

Naval Sea Systems Command spokeswoman Colleen O’Rourke told USNI News this week that, “as part of the transition to a modified performance specification strategy, the Navy awarded design studies and analyses contracts in May 2016 to eight industry partners. These efforts studied the Government-developed indicative design, focusing on several areas of interest to the Government design team with specific emphasis on affordability. Together the Navy and Industry identified areas for improvement within the draft statement of work and craft specification.”

Coupled with ongoing affordability studies and model testing run by the program office, “input from all sources was used to inform the development of the final [request for proposals] and craft specifications, which the Government is confident can be transitioned into a successful detail design by the Contractor,” O’Rourke said.

Despite all those efforts to speed up the delivery of the LCU-1700 craft, the contract was just awarded on March 30, compared to an original FY 2017 date and then a January 2018 award date that Navy officials cited when discussing possible effects of an ongoing continuing resolution that funded the government for most of this fiscal year.

“A number of factors protracted the source selection beyond the originally intended schedule, including the need for discussions with the offerors, which resulted in contract award in FY18,” O’Rourke said.

Landing Craft Utility (LCU) 1656, assigned to Amphibious Cargo Unit (ACU) 2, prepares to depart the well deck of the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) on Sept. 11, 2017. US Navy photo.

The March 30 contract award is an $18-million fixed-price incentive contract for detail design and construction of one LCU-1700 craft, which is set for delivery about 31 months from the date of the contract award. Options for up to 31 more craft are included, which, if executed, would continue LCU delivery through 2027. The contract also includes options for product support, technical manuals, engineering services and more – which, if exercised in full, would bring the value of the total contract for the LCU-1700 program to more than $429.4 million.

Though the Navy told USNI News in December that it was expecting to award a $32-million contract for the LCU program early this year, O’Rourke said this week that the $18-million award to Swiftships only covered design and one craft, not “product support, special studies, initial spares, interim support or the procurement of Government Furnished Equipment” that may contribute to the total $32 million in planned FY 2018 spending.

  • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

    So one entire design and a prototype for 18 million vs 120 million for 120 C-130 propellers plus spares…

    I must be missing something?

    • USNVO

      First, it is a pretty simple design made out of steel, much of the preliminary design has already been completed in previous program expenditures, and they are making one. No

      Second, read the last paragraph again. The metal of an LCU and fabrication is pretty cheap, even the diesel engines and generators are not real expensive, but the expensive stuff like radios and crypto gear, navigation system, etc, are all GFM. So no spares, no training, no GFM, none of the logistics paperwork, establishment of support facilities or agreements, etc. in that cost.

      Third, airplane. Depot to do the work which includes everything such as revised logistics support, spares, training materials and updates, etc.

      • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

        120 million for 120 props is still pricey.

        • USNVO

          True, but it is aviation and that is always expensive. Plus, it is not just props, it also includes significant other parts like the hubs, reversers, control system changes, etc. And it has to be done somewhere and even more than your local car repair place, labor is more than the parts. Finally, there is a whole lot of other stuff that most people don’t pay any attention to. All the documentation needs to be updated, it may require additional special tools, you have to buy a bunch of spares, you have to dispose of a bunch of old spares that no longer fit, you have test flying to completely revise the flight profile and fuel curves, you have to change all your curriculum in your various schools, there may be training specified for your maintainers and pilots, etc. All of that gets paid by the program office and rolled into the price. It is not just pop off the old prop, pop on the new, and off you go.

        • Duane

          “Just a prop” is akin to “just an automatic transmission” on a car … which is the second most complicated and expensive component on a typical car or truck … second only to the engine.

          A constant speed prop on an aircraft is the equivalent of a transmission (and the rest of the drive train) on a car. It consists of the prop blades, hub, an internal hydraulic mechanism that varies the pitch of the blades to provide varying thrust at constant rpm, and includes an automatic as well as manual feathering mechanism to engage whenever an engine fails (this is a key safety of flight feature), as well as to provide reverse thrust for short or soft field landings.

          There is nothing simple or cheap about a prop on a high performance turboprop airplane.

          BTW – the Allison T-56-A-16 engine to which the C-130T props are mounted cost about $3.5M each, not including installation. So a million for the prop including installation sounds right in line.

          • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

            33 years in aerospace. My question is related to if it is a existing prop design, that seems high. Variable pitch, or not.

          • Duane

            It is a revised design, based upon what is perceived to be an issue that could have been a factor in the USMC C-130T loss.

            Revised design or not, I quoted you the engine price at about $3.5M out of the box. The cost to entirely replace the prop including labor is less 30% of the engine cost. That is not excessive for turboprop powerplants.

          • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

            I can buy a new, high tech, 5 blade prop for a King Air for about 140K a pair.

            Gee, is that a Turbo prop? Oh yeah, it is. Me thinks it is even variable pitch.

            HeII, I can buy a used King Air for the cost of a engine?

            What do I know? I forgot who is doing the retrofit? Lockheed?

  • Ed L

    Amphibious Cargo Unit (ACU) 2? When I was in the gators. ACU meant Assault Craft Unit. A new LCU? Well keep it simple fellows. 43 years old, I rode on quiet a few of these in my day.

  • Dean687

    Just wait until the “Littoral” mafia get a hold of the design requirements:
    -must do 40+ knots
    -must be made out of aluminum
    -must be very expensive
    -must be build with module capabilities i.e. “tank carrying module,” “troop carrying module,” “supplies carrying module,” etc
    -must have an extremely complex engineering plant, bi-polar modal hybrid diesel/electric/gas turbine plant
    -must be highly automated-with a crew of only one (but with a blue/gold/silver/red/green/brown/grey/bronze/blush/strawberry/rose/ teams, team not on duty will on on shore “training”)
    -must be built to very low commercial standards
    -must be overweight when it’s empty
    -must have very poor sea-keeping, anything more than sea state one and it must capsize
    -must be build in two different prototype, we’ll ‘down-select’ at year 10, but build a whole bunch of these just to “test them out.”
    -must be built by Lockmart
    -must not cost less than $687 million for the basic ‘sea-frame’ excluding Navy supplied equipment: engines, electronics, 57mm gun, etc)

    • Western

      Reduction gears must be made out of paper mache, and the slightest touch by tug or pier will result in 18-month shipyard overhaul for special stealth-paint replacement. All engineering, communications, navigation and deck controls must be slaved to an XBox controller. Additional contracts will be issued for drone beach-testers, to launch ahead of landing to test sand permeability.

    • Secundius

      Probably a replacement for the LCAC’s! SCS LCAC-100 Heavy-Lift LCAC which are expected to go into service in 2020. And has a Maximum Speed of ~40kts…

  • @USS_Fallujah

    LCAC & AAVs get all the press, but these workhorses are the real backbone of an amphibious operation. I honestly think too much attention goes to what a modern forced landing against a fortified position (like Tarawa, Iwo Jima or Normandy) and not enough on what logistics are required for Seabasing or sustained amphibious operations ashore (ie a ground campaign supported solely by sea without major existing facilities adjacent to the combat zone).
    Everyone looks at how we get Marines and their equipment to shore, but no how we’d keep them fighting for more than 12 hours once they’re there.

  • Secundius

    I suspect the US Navy will get something similar to the US Army’s French/CNIM-designed 32.6-meter “Ro-Ro” L-CAT’s…

  • Leroy

    I don’t know, given smart munitions fired from artillery, modern missiles, something obviously only a dream in WW-II, how long would these ship-to-shore connectors survive in actual combat? When I see this landing craft I feel like I’m looking back at a promo-photo from McHale’s Navy! Does it have any self-protection? I wonder if a Trophy system could be fitted? Something? Anything?!

  • Curtis Conway

    It is time to build the LCU-1700 with reliability and maintainability in mind. Hope there are Marines and Sailors on the team. Prototype & test, and start cracking these things out.

    • Secundius

      First of the LCU-1700’s Hull won’t be delivered before October 2020. Which I suspect is also the same year the first “Rib” or “Keel” (if any) is laid…

      • Curtis Conway

        Hopefully Swiftships does a good job.

        • Secundius

          According to the “PDF” only 31 of the LCU-1700’s are being built! And the US Army Corps of Engineers is constructing 37 French-designed USA-built L-Cat-33’s…