A key admiral last week said the service is hoping to keep the new Guided-Missile Frigate (FFG(X)) cost at $800 million each and will be leveraging modularity margins in construction.

“The follow-on objective cost for FFG(X) is $800 million. We think we can get below that. We think with competition, with understanding what drives cost, and during this next phase understand where capability perhaps is driving cost or where we can kind of get after it,” Rear Adm. John Neagley, PEO LCS, said Jan. 11 at the Surface Navy Association’s 2018 annual symposium.

Rear Adm.  John Neagley, Program Executive Officer,  Littoral Combat Ships (PEO LCS). (Photo: U.S. Navy)
Rear Adm. John Neagley,
Program Executive Officer,
Littoral Combat Ships (PEO LCS). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Earlier in the symposium, the Navy said each FFG(X) after the first unit has an expected cost of $950 million in constant 2018 dollars (Defense Daily, Jan. 9).

The $950 million figure is the maximum allowable cost for each ship, but Neagley expressed confidence the service could stay below that number.

NAVSEA will award between four and six conceptual design contracts, for a 16-month performance period, in the second quarter of 2018.

“This allows us to do two things: we’ve got to go after cost. So we’re going to look at opportunities to reduce cost in the platform, where are the knees in the curves in terms of capability and cost and we have that right,” Neagley said.

After that phase ends, Neagley said the Navy expects to have clean designs going into the detail design and construction phase, which will select the single shipbuilder.

“Having a clean design reduces our potential for having design build concurrency in the next phase. So coming through this early, understanding the designs, getting a clean bill spec, that’ll help our ability to accelerate the program going forward and reduce technical and cost risk in the construction phase.”

However, Neagley was reluctant to offer a figure on what the lead ship might cost.

“So we’re working through the cost for lead ship. So we’ve go to come through the concept design phase, understand what that is. So we’re working through what the lead ship cost will be based on the outcome of this next phase.”

He said the Navy will have a number in the next budget that reflects its current estimates “but that’s a work in progress as we learn more about the ships that are out there, the competitive base that’s going to compete for that kind of capability.”

Type 26 Global Combat Ship Image: BAE Systems
Type 26 Global Combat Ship
Image: BAE Systems

Neagley also noted the Navy will leverage commonality and scalability along with modularity through government furnished equipment (GFE) like the Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR), Vertical Launching System (VLS), which can launch various kinds of missiles, and the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SWEIP) for electronic warfare capabilities.

“All those, part of the combat systems, allows us to leverage that investment to continue to reduce cost, to continue improve interoperability, and really bring that capability home,” he added,

Neagley also noted the Navy is building a margin into the frigate to allow for future modularity. This covers not just size and weight margins, but power too.

“We recognize where the future is. It’s in lasers. It’s in kinetics. It’s in electronic maneuver warfare – all those systems require potentially some additional power margin.”

He said the service is considering that factor early on and wants to allow the ships to be upgradeable to add those in at some point.

On a related note, the new principal military deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition noted the future Navy has to be more modular and use open architecture.

“If you read the CNO’s future Navy paper he’s very clear on that’s his expectation as we roll out this future Navy. That it has to be modular and open architected,” Vice Adm. David Johnson said.

He underscored those are not just words often spoken, “but it actually gets built in to the baseline of the ships. We will not relive the, I’ll say sins of the past, where we prematurely retired surface platforms because it was too expensive to modernize those,”

He said since the Defense Department cannot know what threats will exist in three, let alone 20 years, they have to build programs that can be rapidly modernized. This includes combat systems and the weapons that go with them.

“It’s a hard do, but it’s by no accident that the frigate specs looked a lot like things you see already in today’s surface fleet or programs of record going forward. This commonality, it will become ubiquitous across the surface fleet,” Johnson added.