The Navy on Monday issued a Request for Information (RFI) and announced an Industry Day to help develop the replacement for the service’s old sealift and auxiliary ships.
The notice, posted to FedBizzOpps, said the program manager for the Strategic and Theater Sealift Program Office (PMS-385) is conducting market research as it develops the requirements for new replacement strategic sealift and auxiliary ships.
Relatedly, last month the House Armed Services Subcommittee on seapower and projection forces noted in its draft mark for the FY ’19 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that the Navy is moving too slow to recapitalize and modernize its 46-ship ready reserve force. The FY 2018 NDAA authorized the service to buy two used ships to start recapitalizing the force, but staffers said the service is not planning to make any moves until FY '21 or '22.
The mark is trying to push the Navy along by authorizing eight more reserve ships, require the Navy build 10 new ships, and limit the Military Sealift Command’s funding until the Navy contracts for the initial two 2018 ships authorizations and starts writing requirements for a common hull multi-mission platform (Defense Daily, April 26).
The FBO notice explained while the Navy is relying on an aging fleet of auxiliaries and sealift vessels built over various generations that are approaching the end of their service lives, “an era of rapid technological advancement requires a different approach to capturing requirements and ensuring future flexibility. Evolving threats and future warfighting challenges require multi-mission ships that provide improved operational depth.”
The Navy’s construction plan includes a new domestic common-hull design to replace the older mission-specific auxiliary and sealift designs, which will reduce life cycle costs, leverage reconfigurable force packages, and stabilize the industrial base, the service said
Notably, the notional ship design includes the possibility of using and swapping various mission modules, force packages, and flexible/portable facilities related to personnel accommodations, electric power generation and distribution, medical facilities, industrial ships, aviation intermediate maintenance facilities, space parts and repair equipment storage, command and control facilities, and functional work spaces.
Possible missions for the new ships will include sealift, aviation intermediate maintenance support, medical services, command and control, and submarine tending. This common hull ship is planned to use Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) systems and equipment.
The HASC seapower FY ’19 draft mark would also bar the Navy from retiring the USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) Mercy-class hospital ship until a replacement capability is established. HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) retained this provision in the chairman’s mark of the FY '19 NDAA. The medical facilities options in this RFI could address concerns along those lines.
Major notional ship characteristics include a service life of 40 years, maximum load draft of 35 feet, sustained speed of 18-24 knots, permanent accommodations for up to 120 crew and up to 800 additional personnel housed in portable accommodation modules or reconfigurable berthing, vehicle ramps, a flight deck with landing sports for up to four MV-22 Ospreys, stowage of two folded Ospreys, ability to maintain and repair MV-22s, several cargo cranes, and replenishment-at-sea/refueling-at-sea capability.
The Navy said it is “receptive to alternative platforms or ships that achieve the missions stated above” and the government might change the characteristics if a ship concept or parent design “presents significant cost savings, improves performance characteristics, or reduces design risk.”
PMS-385 is seeking white papers from potential sources that can build ships with the given notional characteristics to address two main topics: possible sources that can build the ships and the current state of the industry for force packages as well as the possible use of portable facilities in a modular ship design.
The notice specifically asks for information on “modular facility arrangements, weights, building standards, interface standards, previous uses, and services desired. Please comment on how embarking these portable facilities would impact host ship design.”
The Navy will also hold an Industry Day on May 23 at General Dynamics’ CSRA office in Washington, D.C., to provide additional information on the concept, capabilities, and design methodology.