The Navy has awarded Lockheed Martin [LMT] the $279 million necessary to complete construction of the 23rd Littoral Combat Ship, the USS Cooperstown, the company said Monday.
Congress in March appropriated $79 million for advanced procurement of the Cooperstown. This new funding will allow Lockheed Martin to proceed to construction while keeping the ship on schedule and on cost, the company said in a news release.
Lockheed Martin and shipbuilder Fincantieri Marinette Marine are tentatively scheduled to begin construction in January 2017, with sea trials slated for late 2019, spokesman Joe Dougherty told Defense Daily.
The Cooperstown is the final Freedom-class LCS procured under a 2010 block buy contract with Lockheed Martin for 10 ships. The first ship of that buy, the USS Milwaukee (LCS-5), was commissioned earlier this month and has since set sail for its home port in San Diego, Calif.
Driving down the cost of the ship has been an imperative for Lockheed Martin and Austal, which builds the Independence-class LCS. The program has been subject to intense congressional scrutiny, and a $480 million per ship cost cap was put into place in 2010 to help curb expenses. Since then, the price per ship has steadily fallen— the contract award for LCS-5 was valued at $437 million, while total contract award for LCS-23 stands at $358 million.
“By providing this funding, the Navy demonstrates its commitment to the Lockheed Martin-led team in building the advanced Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship,” said Joe North, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of littoral ships and systems. “We have delivered three of these ships to the fleet so far, and we stand committed on the remaining block buy deliveries.”
Besides the Milwaukee, Lockheed has delivered two LCS to the Navy. The first, the USS Freedom (LCS-1), was deployed to Southeast Asia in 2013 and is currently operating in San Diego. The USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) currently is deployed to Southeast Asia, where it has participated in international exercises and operations such as the search for Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 earlier this year.