Littoral Combat Ship Acquisition Strategy Shifts
The U.S. Navy will down select between the two littoral combat ship (LCS) designs it has been considering for the past several years. The service is canceling the current LCS seaframe construction solicitation, and a new solicitation will be issued. The decision will be made in fiscal year 2010. During the down select, one prime contractor and shipyard will be awarded a fixed-price incentive contract for as many as 10 ships. Two ships will be ordered during fiscal year 2010; options for additional vessels will extend through fiscal year 2014. The award winner also will provide combat systems for up to five additional ships that a second source will provide. Under the new acquisition strategy, the Navy will be allowed to open competition for a second source for the selected design beginning in 2012. To date, two teams led by Lockheed Martin Corporation and General Dynamics Corporation have designed and built two different types of LCS seaframes. Cost has been identified as the Navy's reason to cancel the current solicitation to acquire up to three LCS Flight 0+ ships during fiscal year 2010. In anticipation of constrained budgets, Navy officials say the current acquisition strategy could not continue. Both industry teams will be allowed to submit proposals under the new solicitation. Ray Mabus, secretary of the Navy, states that the decision was made to increase competition and produce the ships at a more affordable price. "LCS is vital to our Navy's future. It must succeed," he says. According to Adm. Gary Roughead, USN, chief of naval operations, conducting the down select now will enable the Navy to build LCSs at a realistic cost without compromising critical warfighting capabilities. The littoral combat ships are fast, agile vessels featuring a modular design. They have been designed to fulfill the requirements of multiple types of missions, from littoral irregular warfare to mine, antisubmarine and surface warfare. Original plans included the purchase of 55 ships. To date, the LCS 1, the USS Freedom, has been commissioned, the LCS 2, the USS Independence, is undergoing sea trials and LCS 3 and LCS 4 construction has begun. The Navy still intends to fulfill the plan to build 55 LCSs.