The U.S. Navy awarded Lockheed Martin [LMT] a modification on Tuesday to exercise an option to build one FY 2019 Freedom-variant littoral combat ship (LCS), LCS-31.

The contract announcement did not cite the specific award value because it “is considered source-selection sensitive information and will not be made public at this time.”

The future USS Wichita (LCS-13) conducts acceptance trials in Lake Michigan in July 2018. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the Freedom-variant odd-numbered LCSs, which are built by Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisc. LCS-31 will be the 16th Freedom-variant vessel ordered by the Navy.

Austal USA build the even-numbered Independence-variant LCSs, built in Mobile, Ala.

The Navy said Lockheed Martin will perform and oversee all necessary design, planning, construction and test and trials activities in support of delivery of this ship to the Navy. The awarded work is expected to be finished by February 2026

Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) noted this award completes the acquisition strategy for FY 2019 as authorized and appropriated by Congress.

A Lockheed Martin spokesperson underscored the Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine team will “leverage capital investment and improvement in the shipyard and efficiencies created with serial production to maintain high quality at an affordable cost.”

“We are excited to continue our partnership with the U.S. Navy and FMM to build and deliver capable ships to the fleet. With the Freedom-variant in serial production, we continue to enhance efficiency and incorporate capability while maintaining ship and program affordability,” Joe DePietro, vice president and general manager for small combatants and ship systems, said in a statement.

In September NAVSEA awarded Lockheed Martin one FY 2018 Freedom-variant LCS and Austal USA two Independence-variant LCSs (Defense Daily, Sept. 20, 2018).

Congress authorized and appropriated funds for the Navy to procure three LCSs in FY 2019, two above the Navy’s initial request. The Navy’s last Force Structure Assessment in late 2016 planned for 52 small surface combatants, including 32 LCSs. Now the Navy is on track to procure 35 LCSs (Defense Daily, Sept. 14, 2018).