The Navy has exercised an option awarding Fincantieri’s Marinette Marine

a $554 million contract modification for the detail design and construction (DD&C) of the second Constellation-class frigate, the future USS Congress (FFG-63).

This modification, awarded May 20, covers DD&C as well as integrated digital environment support for the vessel.

Like the first vessel, FF-63 will be built at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Marinette, Wisc., with overall work split between Marinette (52 percent), Boston, Mass. (10 percent), Crozet, Va. (8 percent) and several other locations in the U.S. with an expected completion date of January 2027.

The full modification amount was obligated at the time of award via fiscal year 2021 shipbuilding funds and will not expire at the end of this fiscal year.

Last December, before leaving office with the change in administrations, former Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite announced the second new frigate would be named the USS Congress. The first two ships are both named after ships in the group of initial six frigates authorized by Congress in 1794 (Defense Daily, Dec. 4, 2020).

“The Navy Program Office is pleased to award the option for the USS Congress (FFG 63) to our industry partner Fincantieri Marinette Marine. As the second ship of the Constellation Class Frigate Program, the USS Congress will provide a highly capable, next-generation surface combatant that our Navy and Nation needs,” Capt. Kevin Smith, major program manager for Constellation Class Frigate (PMS 515), said in a statement.

The Navy said like others in its class, FFG-63 will have a multi-mission capability to conduct air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, electronic warfare and information operations.

“The Constellation Class Frigate will be an important part of the Navy’s future Fleet. It represents the evolution of the Navy’s small surface combatant force with increased lethality, survivability, and improved capability to support the National Defense Strategy across the full range of military operations. It will help conduct distributed maritime operations more effectively and improve the Navy’s ability to fight both in contested blue-water and littoral environments,” Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) said in a statement.

The frigate is planned to include systems like the Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR) based on the SPY-6 radar installed on Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, Baseline 10 Aegis Combat System, a 32-cell Lockheed Martin [LMT] Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS), 15 Raytheon Technologies [RTX] Naval Strike Missile anti-ship weapons, MK 110 57mm Gun Weapon System (GWS), as well as “added capability in the Electronic Warfare/Information Operations area with design flexibility for future growth,” the service said.

The acquisition process for the Constellation-class began in 2017 and last year the Navy awarded Marinette Marine a $795 million DD&C contract for the first frigate with options for up to nine additional ships (Defense Daily, April 30, 2020).

The Constellation-class frigates are based on Fincantieri’s FREMM multi-mission frigate built for the Italian and French navies.

The Navy previously said it plans follow-on vessels to cost $800 – $950 million in constant year (CY) 2018 dollars. 

NAVSEA spokesman Alan Baribeau told Defense Daily in a statement that “based on the Component Independent Cost Estimate, which estimated the cost of all 20 ships, this award results in a $781 million average follow ship cost in [calendar year ’18 dollars]. The differences in these values (the average follow cost and the costs in the budget) are mainly attributable to escalation that is added to the ships when they are awarded in a given year after CY$18.”

Baribeau also noted the lead ship included some non-recurring work like detail design for the class while both the original contract and this modification are fixed-price incentive awards.

In February, Fincantieri announced Marinette Marine started construction on a new large building it will use to help build two frigates at once. Construction on it is part of a $200 million shipyard capital expansion underway at the facility (Defense Daily, Feb. 10).

The Navy originally planned to acquire 20 frigates but the Trump administration’s final 30-year shipbuilding plan in December said the Navy was planning to add a second shipyard to produce up to four frigates per year to reach a higher number at a faster pace than previously planned. (Defense Daily, Dec. 10, 2020).

The Biden administration has not made plans to change the long-term plans and is expected to deliver the FY ‘22 budget request before the end of this month. 

During her Senate confirmation hearing this year, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said the last 30-year plan had interesting themes like growing the number of small surface combatants, but that this administration would assess the plan for themselves and make adjustments as necessary (Defense Daily, Feb. 2).