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Rep. Courtney Frustrated With Pace of Frigate Program

Contenders for Navy frigate program. USNI News Image

ARLINGTON, Va. – There’s a growing sense of impatience among Capitol Hill legislators over the Navy’s pace for selecting a future frigate (FFG(X)) program design, the new chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee said on Wednesday.

The Navy is considering five possible frigate designs, and Congress is eagerly awaiting a decision, Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), said while speaking at the 2019 Surface Navy Association Symposium.

“I think there’s frustration about the fact that it keeps getting sort of pushed back and delayed,” Courtney said of the Navy’s future frigate program.

Several years ago, the Navy planned to modify one of the two littoral combat ship variants into a frigate design, according to January 2016 Congressional Research Service report. Under this plan, former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter directed the Navy to purchase the first of 12 frigates during Fiscal Year 2020.

At the time, the Navy planned to field a fleet of 40 small surface combatants, according to the CRS report. The Navy has since revised its plan and now intends to build a fleet of 52 small surface combatants, according to a 2018 CRS report.

However, with the LCS program winding down – the 31st and final planned LCS contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin on Tuesday – there’s been a constant concern among the shipbuilding industry and legislators that hot small surface combatant production lines could go cold if the Navy delays settling on a frigate design.

The Navy, Congress and shipbuilders all want to quickly transition from LCS production to frigate production in FY 2020 without a break.

“I understand the importance to these yards to try to maintain the industrial base, but we really need to get moving in terms of the frigate program,” Courtney said. “If there’s going to be another request for a delay, it is going to be frankly a bit of a headache for us this year,” Courtney said.