The U.S. Navy issued a new, $564-million to Lockheed Martin, authorizing construction of a new littoral combat ship – the twenty-fifth vessel in LCS defense program, which Lockheed and its partners were assigned in 2005.
“We are proud to continue our partnership with the U.S. Navy to build and deliver the capable Freedom-class LCS to the fleet,” stated Lockheed’s Joe North, vice president and general manager of Littoral Ships and Systems.
The LCS vessels are combat-capable ships designed for “multi-mission support” in littoral zones (i.e., near to shore.) The first ship in the series was commissioned in 2005, and the Pentagon has issued contracts for a total of 55 ships. While the Lockheed team is responsible for the Freedom-class LCS vessels, a separate consortium led by Austal USA is responsible the Independence-class LCS vessels.
Freedom-class LCS vessels are assigned odd numbers — in the current example, LCS 25 — while Independence Class ships are given by even numbers. According to Lockheed, the Freedom Class LCS program is in full-rate production, with three ships delivered to date and seven ships in varying stages of construction.
“Over 12,000 people and 500 suppliers in 37 states contribute to this critical program and will continue to do so as we transition to the new Freedom-class Frigate in the coming years,” according to North.
While the Freedom-class LCS program is led by Lockheed, its consortium includes Fincantieri Marinette Marine, which builds the vessels at its shipyard in Marinette, Wis. Engineering support is provided by naval architect Gibbs & Cox, Arlington, Va. According to Lockheed, the team has recently invested over $100 million to modernize the Wisconsin shipyard, and hire and train new workers.
Lockheed noted the new contract funds sea-frame construction, systems integration, and testing, Lockheed noted in its announcement. It indicated the USN exercised an option in its 2010 “block buy” LCS contract with Lockheed, making this the eleventh ship to be supplied under that original 10-ship order. The contractor reported that design and development costs have been reduced significantly because of the “block buy” contract, “to half the cost of the first ships” in the Freedom-class.
LCS 25 will be the eleventh ship procured under that contract, and the thirteenth Freedom-class ship overall. It is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in 2020.
The Freedom-class ships have a modular design with a steel “monohull” (Lockheed referred to it as “a proven, survivable design, … recognized for its stability and reliability.” Forty percent of the shipboard space is reconfigurable, so the hull can accommodate additional weaponry and “survivability” upgrades.