US Navy to request bids for new frigate this summer
The US Navy is on track to release the final RfP for the Guided Missile Frigate (FFG(X)) this summer, according to a key service official.
‘We are on or ahead of our schedule for the full RfP and the competition,’ navy acquisition chief James Geurts testified on 26 March before the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower and projection forces panel.
The navy is evaluating industry feedback on the draft RfP, which it issued on 1 March, well before its June target. A contract award for the ship’s detail design and construction is slated for Q4 of FY2020.
The navy envisions the FFG(X) as a more capable version of its existing small surface combatant, the Littoral Combat Ship.
The navy’s 2016 Force Structure Assessment calls for the service to grow its fleet to 355 ships, including 52 small surface combatants. But a new version of that study, which the navy intends to finish by year’s end, will likely call for even more small surface combatants, said VADM William Merz, deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems.
‘We’re expecting a pretty hard look at the mix of ships this year,’ Merz told the House panel. ‘We know we are heavy on large surface combatants. We’d like to adjust that to a more appropriate mix, especially with the lethality we’re seeing coming along with the new frigate. All shipyards have agreed that they can give us the lethality we need.’
In February 2018, the navy awarded 16-month conceptual design contracts for the frigate to five companies: Austal USA, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Lockheed Martin and Marinette Marine.
Also during the hearing, navy officials defended the service’s proposal to cancel the mid-life refuelling of USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75), which would retire the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier about 25 years early. They said the move would save billions of dollars that could be spent on newer systems.
‘That was a hard tradeoff we made in this budget cycle,’ Geurts testified.
Lawmakers, however, reiterated their opposition to the Truman proposal, saying it would worsen a carrier shortfall. They also said the retirement would save only $17 million in FY2020 while wasting the $500 million the navy has already spent on new nuclear reactor cores for the Truman.
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