The Navy recently issued a new draft Request For Proposals (RFP) for the new Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle (LUSV) program, the service said Wednesday. The service also warned reductions to its funding in the House defense appropriations bill may limit design contracts.

This latest and second draft RFP was released on Aug. 9.

The Navy intends to convert two Ghost Fleet unmanned vessels initiated by the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) into a new separate LUSV program. The Navy expects to issue the final solicitation in the fourth quarter of this fiscal year, which ends in September.

The DARPA Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program full-scale Sea Hunter demonstration vehicle. (Photo: DARPA)

In March, the Navy unveiled its plan to start this new 10-ship LUSV fleet during the Defense Department’s FY 2020 budget request process. It intends to spend up to $400 million for two LUSVs in FY ’20 and then buy two more each year through FY ’24 for a total cost of $2.7 billion (Defense Daily, March 13).

Concurrently, the Navy issued a request for information in March to conduct market research to find sources to satisfy LUSV requirements (Defense Daily, March 14).

The draft RFP, issued on FedBizOpps, explained the LUSV will be a “high-endurance, reconfigurable ship able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions to augment the Navy’s manned surface force.”

Since it will have a large payload capacity, the LUSV will be designed to conduct several warfare operations independently or in conjunction with manned surface combatants. The Navy expects the vessel to be capable of semi-autonomous or fully autonomous operations, with operators either controlling remotely (in-the-loop) or enabled via autonomy (on-the-loop).

The Navy previously explained the vessels will be 200-300 feet long and 2,000-ton corvette-sized vessels.

However, the House FY ’20 defense appropriations bill reduced LUSV funding by nearly $200 million to buy one LUSV, opposed to the two requested. The budget cut prevented the purchase of long-lead material earlier than needed and excess design support, the bill said (Defense Daily, July 11).

In the service’s recently issued Budgetary Appeal to the bill, the Navy said a $96 million reduction to only one LUSV in FY ’20 impacts the Navy’s plan to use $209 million to procure two LUSVs of similar configuration to the SCO Ghost Fleet project vessels. In all, $180 million of that amount is needed to exercise options on the earlier contract to procure two vessels from each vendor team on the SCO contract and retrofit the first two based on lessons learned.

The Navy intends to use the rest of that $209 million fund to procurement government-furnished command, control, computers, communications and intelligence equipment for the two new vessels; integrate the Aegis Weapon System on all four vessels; and provide program management support.

The service warned the $96 million reduction “would allow the procurement of one vessel, but would limit the retrofit [of] the two current Ghost Fleet vessels, delaying incorporation of lessons learned and technology improvements.”

This, in turn, would increase risk in the FY ’20 and ’21 testing and experimentation plans, the Navy said

The Navy also argued reducing to one LUSV will force a downselect to one vendor team on the current Ghost Fleet contract, “limiting opportunities for testing, experimentation, and technology development with separate and distinct designs and autonomy solutions.”

Moreover, a $20 million reduction in the House bill due the “excess design support” would limit the potential vendor base for the concept design contracts from up to seven to a maximum five bidders.

The Navy warned this potentially eliminates potential medium-sized shipyards from competing for the design contract. Allowing seven concept design contract vendors is “supporting a robust vendor base and providing additional competitive opportunities for medium-sized shipyards.”

A $79 million reduction in the appropriations bill from government-furnished long-lead time material for the two FY ’21 planned LUSVs “will have cascading impacts to production schedules” that would additionally delay delivery of an operationally relevant fleet-ready LUSV asset until the first quarter of FY ’26, the Navy said.