The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) awarded Lockheed Martin [LMT] another $282 million undefinitized modification on Nov. 16 for more long-lead-time material and detail design to build four Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) ships in a sale to Saudi Arabia.

The MMSC is based on the Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship, built at Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Wisconsin. The Navy described the MMSC as a “lethal and highly maneuverable surface combatant capable of littoral and open-ocean operation.”

Graphic model of the Saudi Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC). (Image: Lockheed Martin)
Graphic model of the Saudi Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC). (Image: Lockheed Martin)

This is the third MMSC long-lead-time modification for the MMSC project in 2018. In July, NAVSEA awarded the company $451 million for the work (Defense Daily, July 17) and in March the Navy awarded Lockheed Martin a $481 million modification (Defense Daily, March 9).

The MMSC is part of the overall memorandum of intent the U.S. and Saudi Arabia signed in 2017 covering almost $110 billion in foreign military sales over 10 years (Defense Daily, May 22, 2017).

Lockheed Martin told Defense Daily in an emailed statement this latest award advances the scope of work, specifically including upfront hardware designs and 3D modeling for the shipyard in preparation for the start of production in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The company added it is continuing development of the MMSC program “as directed by the United States to progress toward ship production.”

Lockheed Martin underscored while the MMSC will be built at the shipyard in Marinette it “should not be perceived as shipyard gap filler or an alternative for an FY ’19 award” because serial production there is tied to building two ships per year to support “efficiencies and stable shipyard jobs.”

MMSC 1 will begin production in late 2019 and MMSC will not be started for a year after.

The company warned that “Fincantieri Marinette Marine will experience a break in production without the FY ’19 award early in the fiscal year. The LCS award and MMSC production keep stable shipyard work leading into 2022 when FFG(X) production begins.”

That statement echoes a letter from lawmakers from Michigan and Wisconsin to the Navy Secretary in April arguing with similar concerns.

The members said they had concerns the FY ’18 and ’19 LCS acquisition strategy “unduly disadvantages” the Freedom-variant industry team by focusing too much on price alone and could lead to a quarter of the workforce being laid off (Defense Daily, April 19).

The members also had said the MMSC should not be seen as a “cure-all bridging solution” for the Freedom-variant workforce.

At the time, the Navy had requested one additional LCS for the FY ’19 shipbuilding budget, but Congress eventually authorized and appropriated three ships.

Work for this latest contract modification will occur mostly in Marinette (55 percent), Baltimore (23 percent), and Herndon, Va. (11 percent). It is expected to be finished by Oct. 2025.

The award is funded via foreign military sales to Saudi Arabia with $124 million obligated at award time. This funding will not expire at the end of this fiscal year.