By Geoff Fein

After completing two-weeks of builder’s trials, Lockheed Martin‘s [LMT] Freedom (LCS-1) is waiting to begin acceptance trials and the company is awaiting word on whether it will be awarded a contract to build a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) in FY ’08, a company official said.

Freedom completed 12 days of builder’s trials in Lake Michigan on Aug. 8, and will begin acceptance trials Aug. 17, Fred Moosally, president of Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors, told reporters during a briefing yesterday.

“We start going through the in-port inspections and we have some underway days…at least one or two,” he said.

The Navy’s plan, Moosally added, is to turn Freedom over to the crew after the acceptance trials. They will then do a transit out of the Great Lakes and into the Atlantic.

Because of treaties with Canada, some aspects of the acceptance trials won’t take place until Freedom is in the Atlantic, namely testing the 57mm gun and missile launching system.

The Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey will get to test out Freedom‘s unique propulsion system that Moosally called a “breakthrough propulsion plant.”

‘This propulsion system is like a fine Swiss watch [in] how it works together, and it is fully automated,” Moosally said.

Freedom has a combined diesel turbine plant, water jets and the biggest gas turbines installed in any warship, he added.

Freedom uses Rolls-Royce‘s MT30s, the same gas turbines that will be used on DDG-1000.

Lockheed Martin’s team also includes Marinette Marine [MTW], Bollinger Shipyards, Gibbs & Cox, DRS Technologies [DRS] and Fincantieri.

During her acceptance trials, Freedom exceeded 40 knots for more than two hours at a time, Moosally said.

“We kind of met our speed goals out here with that ship,” he said. “Every day it was out there it ran hard.

“We did 180 degree turns, 360 degree turns at all speeds, at high speeds, at full power,” he added. “The ship rides very well.”

Moosally added there are still some unknowns, for example in the automation, but that’s what the trials are for, he said.

“The unknowns are mostly…in the automation the software…this ship has to be fine tuned in order for the crew of 40 to run it,” Moosally said.

Moosally also noted the huge flight deck, that will accommodate a MH-60 helicopter and the Fire Scout vertical takeoff unmanned aerial vehicle, and interior mission bay holds.

“This ship is bigger on the aft end because it has this huge flight deck and hangar, and if you go down two flights you get into the mission module bay and it’s huge,” he said. “When I look at this ship I say it’s a frigate…this is a real warship down here. When you get to the back it looks like a cruiser from the stern, and then when you get in the mission module bay this is like an amphibious [ship] because it has all this deck space down there and has the stern ramp on it.”

With construction of Freedom done, Lockheed Martin and the rest of its team are now awaiting word from the Navy on whether it will be awarded a contract to build the FY ’08 ship.

“We are waiting for Navy to get back to us on how they are going to handle this, because when Freedom sails out of Marinette we are going to have a bunch of guys with wrenches sitting on the pier looking for the next work,” Moosally said. “We are a little concerned about continuity in the production line. We have been working with the Navy to say we need to get these next ships under contract ASAP.”

One issue for Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics [GD], which is building a second LCS variant, the Independence (LCS-2), is the congressionally imposed cost cap and the requirement that all LCS awards going forward be fixed price incentive contracts.

“The cost cap language is the most restrictive of any shipbuilding program in that it does not even allow for inflation,” Moosally said. “And it also has to have the Navy program costs included in your bid. This is where you start running into issues.”

Moosally said Lockheed Martin was looking at the Navy awarding the contract for the lone FY ’08 LCS and two more in FY ’09 on Aug. 4.

He told reporters the hold up might be that the Navy is dealing with “the restrictive language…the cost cap language.”

The FY ’06 National Defense Authorization Act placed a $220 million cost cap on the fifth and sixth LCS for each seaframe. But because of significant cost increases to LCS, the Navy went back to Congress in May 2007 seeking approval for raising the cost cap to $460 million (Defense Daily, May 30).

“If you have a cost cap that says you cannot accommodate inflation, I don’t see how the $460 [million] number is going to hold up very long,” Moosally said.