Naval Sea Systems Command confirmed today that each new Guided-Missile Frigate, beyond the first unit, has an expected end cost of $950 million each.
This cost, in constant 2018 dollars, is the expected average threshold cost of each ship after the initial hull, Regan Campbell, program manager of the frigate program office (PMS 515) in PEO LCS, said in a media availability on Tuesday at the Surface Navy Association’s 2018 annual symposium.
This cost does not cover the initial, first of class ship, which typically cost more.
Campbell said the cost includes government furnished equipment (GFE) and the Navy is planning for a 20-ship order of frigates.
The new frigate, designated FFG(X), was originally the next step beyond the much-criticized Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) as a small surface combatant. The Navy outlined expected uses in a presolicitation notice, including supporting fleet and support combatant commanders by supplementing undersea and surface warfare capabilities, relieve larger vessels from routine obligations during non-war operations, extend the fleet tactical grid, and host unmanned systems (Defense Daily, Oct. 17).
The Navy released the final conceptual design (CD) request for proposals (RFP) last November, which specified the ships will be built in U.S. shipyards and offerors must start with a parent design (Defense Daily, Nov. 8, 2017).
A parent design means a ship design that has been through production and has been demonstrated full-scale at sea.
Campbell noted the frigates are being designed for a close-in escort role, but would not reveal the types of distances that covers other than that it is smaller than the Aegis escort range.
The FFG(X) program has vulnerability improvements over the previous frigate designs, looking primarily at shock hardening but also more stringent structures for blast hardening and structural fatigue length, she said.
A December Congressional Research Service report on the FFG(X) noted it is likely to be larger, more heavily armed, and more expensive than the LCS.
Campbell said NAVSEA is now entering the conceptual design phase and they will award between four and six awards in the second quarter of 2018. “The period of performance here is 16 months…we think 16 months will get us there.”
She could not reveal which companies have submitted conceptual designs yet, but will be able to say who is getting an award “shortly.”
The service is using this phase to help mature offeror designs coming in and reduce risk to the program. She highlighted this is in keeping with the goals of the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) in trying to grow the Navy faster than before, but also control risks and make sure it makes sense from a consumer perspective.
Campbell noted the Navy will also be able to provide industry feedback through a technical review for each proposal on areas where parent designs need to be modified to be competitive in the next phase of the program: a full and open detail design and construction (DD&C) competition.
This will provide “feedback on where we think their designs might need some buffing up” to get through the DD&C.
NAVSEA expects to see RFPs for the DD&C phase in the fourth quarter of 2019, with a final award planned for 2020.
The DD&C is both a downselect and full and open competition, with one vendor chosen in the end, Campbell said.
She clarified that offerors do not have to get into the conceptual design contract to get into the DD&C competition.
“We anticipate that could happen,” and the Navy is putting together a mechanism, called a bidder’s library, to provide updates to the specifications and the GFE list that comes out of the conceptual design process.
“So if you happen to be not in the conceptual design contract, you still have the opportunity to get the information to be competitive for the DD&C contract,” Campbell said.
The Navy’s current position strategy says one frigate will be procured in the first year, 2020, one in 2021, and then expects to procure two per year for the following years until all 20 are built.
On armaments, she revealed the frigate has a vertical launch system (VLS) threshold of 16 cells and objective value of 32 cells. For anti-ship missiles the threshold value is eight and objective is 16 missiles.