By Geoff Fein

The Navy has arrived at a plan that will shift construction of all three DDG-1000-class destroyers to General Dynamics [GD] Bath Iron Works (BIW), while giving two new-build DDG-51s to Northrop Grumman [NOC] Shipbuilding (NGSB).

Additionally, the plan also provides for stable continued construction of the LPD-17-class, Lt. Clayton Doss, a Navy spokesman, told Defense Daily.

The Navy’s plan most affordably meets the requirements for Navy surface combatants, commences the transition to additional, improved missile defense capability in new DDG-51- class construction, and provides significant stability for the industrial base, Doss added.

"The plan will align construction responsibilities for DDG-1000, -1001, and -1002 at BIW with NGSB continuing participation in the program. This will help stabilize and minimize cost risk for the DDG-1000 program," Doss said. "The plan also calls for efficient restart of the DDG-51 program with DDG-113 and DDG-114 to be constructed at NGSB and DDG-115 to be constructed at BIW. The plan also provides for stable continued construction of the LPD-17-class (also built by Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding)."

The proposal will ensure shipyard workload stability at both yards, leverage learning, facilitate performance improvement opportunities at both shipyards, and maintain two sources of supply for future Navy surface combatant shipbuilding programs, he added.

"This plan is consistent with Secretary Gates’ comments last week in that the Department’s Fiscal Year ’10 plans depend on being able to work out contracts to allow the Navy to efficiently build all three DDG-1000 class ships at Bath Iron Works in Maine and to smoothly restart the DDG-51 Aegis Destroyer program at Northrop Grumman’s Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi," Doss said.

"Without this plan, the Department would likely build only a single DDG-1000 prototype at BIW, and would reconsider the acquisition strategy to ensure an efficient restart of the DDG-51 production line," he added.

Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates in his FY ’10 defense program recommendations to lawmakers said the Navy would move construction of the planned three Zumwalt– class multi mission combat ships to BIW (Defense Daily, April 7).

Last year, the Navy opted to truncate the DDG-1000 effort, dropping from seven to two ships, and returning to the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class. The decision was based on a new threat analysis that Navy officials said made the DDG-1000 ineffective. The decision led to intense battles among lawmakers, the Navy and Defense Department officials.

"Building three DDG-1000s and DDG-115 at Bath Iron Works will bring much-needed stability and predictability to our workforce and the workforce of our suppliers. That stability is essential to the cost-effective execution of these programs, and will help ensure that these ships deliver the highest possible value to the U.S. Navy and American taxpayers," said Jeffrey Geiger, president of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works.

The DDG agreement is a result of partnering with the Navy to allocate and reallocate the surface combatant workload within the shipbuilding industry, Northrop Grumman said in a statement last week (Defense Daily, April 7).

"The intent is to allocate construction responsibilities to ensure shipyard workload stability, stabilize and minimize cost risk for the DDG-1000 program, provide for an efficient re-start of the DDG-51 program, facilitate performance improvement opportunities at the shipyards, and maintain the sources of supply for future Navy surface combatant shipbuilding programs," the company said. "This is aligned with the Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding strategic objective to reduce cost by allowing us to capture the value of series production, economic order quantities and production engineering."

DDG-113 will be built in FY ’10, as will the third DDG-1000. DDG-114 and -115 will be built in FY ’11.

The Navy asked for funds for DDG-1002 in FY ’09. Remaining funds for the third ship of the DDG-1000-class will come under the FY ’10 budget, Doss said.