Moving quickly in the wake of a major change in its original contract for a new medium-class cutter, the Coast Guard on Friday released a notional schedule for the revamped acquisition schedule for the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) showing plans to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for industry studies in early 2020 leading to a contract award in late fiscal year 2022 for detail design and lead ship construction.
The notional schedule is contained with a Request for Information (RFI) seeking industry feedback on the schedule and acquisition approach to help the Coast Guard finalized its acquisition strategy for completing the planned purchase of 25 OPCs.
The Department of Homeland Security on Oct. 11 decided to truncate the Coast Guard’s original OPC contract with Panama City, Fla.-based Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) at four ships, citing impacts from Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm, that walloped the shipyard and surrounding area a year ago. As a result of the storm, ESG sought extraordinary contract relief related to cost and schedule on its contract, which required delivery of the first nine OPCs with options for up to two more before the program would be competed again.
ESG’s contract called for delivering the lead OPC in FY ’21, with the next two medium-endurance cutters following in successive years before the company was expected to ramp to building two ships per year beginning with the fourth and fifth vessels. The contract relief granted ESG modifies the delivery schedule for the first OPC to late FY ’22 with the next three vessels coming in late FY ’23, FY ’24, an FY ’25 respectively.
Now, under the notional schedule, whoever wins the recompete will deliver the fifth, sixth and seventh OPCs in the fourth quarters of FY ’26, FY ’27 and FY ’28 respectively, and then transition to two ships per year beginning in the fourth quarter of FY ’29 until hulls 24 and 25 are delivered in late FY ’37.
The contract award or awards for the industry studies isn’t far off, with the milestone pegged right on the line between the second and third quarters of FY ’20, which is next March or April. Draft specifications for the ship are projected to be issued in the third quarter of FY ’20 and the RFP for detail design and construction is estimated for release at the start of the second quarter of FY ’21.
For the new round of industry studies, the Coast Guard will take advantage of the work currently done on the OPC.
“In order to meet the OPC Program’s operational fleet needs, it is assumed that Shipbuilders would utilize the mature parts of the existing OPC functional design—to the maximum extent possible—and mature any incomplete aspects of the detail design,” the Oct. 18 RFI says. “The existing functional design, including selected 2D drawings, calculations, and diagrams, will be made available for Industry Studies contract awardees and will not be warranted by the Government. While schedule is a major driver, program affordability must remain a constant consideration.”
ESG in Sept. 2018 was awarded a $400 million contract for construction of the first 360-foot OPC, the Argus, and long-lead materials for the second ship, Chase. Cutting of steel on Argus began in January.
ESG beat out offers from Bollinger Shipyards and General Dynamics [GD]. Shipbuilders Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] and VT Halter Marine were eliminated by the Coast Guard in an earlier round of the competition. VT Halter is part of Singapore’s ST Engineering.
The OPC will replace aging 210-foot and 270-foot medium-endurance cutters, which are increasingly costly to operate and maintain.
The OPC program is expected to cost between $10 billion and $11 billion for 25 ships.
Responses to the RFI are due by Nov. 6.