The Navy issued the final request for proposals (RFP) for detail design and construction (DD&C) for the future guided-missile frigate, FFG(X), late on Thursday.

This is the next step in a program that expects to award 10 of an eventual 20 frigates from the winner. The frigate will be paired with Littoral Combat Ships (LSC) to make up the Navy’s small surface combatant fleet made of over 50 vessels.

A Bergamini-class Italian Navy FREMM frigate. (Photo: Fincantieri)
A Bergamini-class Italian Navy FREMM frigate. (Photo: Fincantieri)

The solicitation posted to FedBizOpps directs offerors to describe how their ship design meets or exceeds specification requirements in areas like range, service life allowance, acoustic signature management, accommodations, undersea surveillance system, vertical replenishment, and over-the-horizon capability. Service life allowance specifically covers weight, arrangeable deck area, cooling, and electrical.

In early 2018 the Navy awarded five companies $15 million 16-month-long conceptual design contracts to help reduce risk by maturing the designs faster. The winners were Lockheed Martin [LMT], Austal USAHuntington Ingalls Industries [HII], Lockheed Martin [LMT], Fincantieri Marinette Marine, and General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works [GD] (Defense Daily, Feb. 16, 2018).

The CD phase ends this month as the RFP is issued and the Navy intends to award a contract for the FFG(X) to a single winner in FY 2020.

The Navy first released a draft RFP for the DD&C contract in March. This initial DD&C covers the first 10 frigates. The program directs offerors to propose designs based on an existing parent ship design that has been demonstrated at sea and would be built in the U.S.

However, last month Lockheed Martin dropped out of the frigate competition. A spokesperson told Defense Daily the company decided to focus on the FFG(X) combat systems, like the Aegis-derived MK 41 Vertical Launching System, anti-submarine warfare processing, and electronic warfare (Defense Daily, May 29).

The Navy expects the first ship to cost up to $950 million maximum, and then follow-on vessels are expected to cost around $800 million each (Defense Daily, Jan. 17).

Notably, the RFP seeks descriptions for how the ship can be upgraded with less major work. Offerors should describe “the flexibility in the design to accommodate efficient warfare systems upgrades by explaining equipment removal and upgrade paths with an emphasis on avoiding hull cuts or the need for dry docking.”

The USS Manchester (LCS-14) while completing acceptance trials in Dec. 2017. (Photo: U.S. Navy courtesy of Austal USA).

Competitors should also describe provisions for upgrading the towed and hull-mounted undersea warfare system sensors.

The Navy’s FY 2020 budget request documents sketched out the expected construction schedule for the frigates. It expects to award the first frigate in July 2020, with construction planned to start in July 2022 and then be delivered by July 2026.

The follow-on vessels are expected to have a similar path, with the Navy awarding two frigates per year from 2021 – 2024. Ships are expected to start construction two years following awards, and then be delivered four years after that (Defense Daily, March 18).

The budget documents also said the frigates will feature the Raytheon [RTN] Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR), a Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) Block II (SLQ-32(V)6), the MK 48 gun system, a 21-cell Raytheon Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) guided missile launching system, a 32-cell MK 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS), an eight-cannister Over-the Horizon (OTH) missile launcher, the AN/SQQ-89 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) combat system, the AN/USG-2B Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) to integrate fire control sensor data and share with other ships, and a frigate weapon system command and control system derived from the Aegis Common Source Library.

Austal is offering a modified version of its Independence-variant LCS, Fincantieri is offering a variant on the Italian FREMM frigate, GD is working with Spain’s Navantia to bid a version of the F100 frigate, and HII has not publicly said its offering but in the past presented a variant of its legend-class Coast Guard National Security Cutter as a patrol frigate.

Before dropping out, Lockheed Martin was offering a ship based on its Freedom-variant LCS. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the Freedom, but they are built by Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Wisconsin.