The Navy’s FY 2021 budget request pushed back the new guided-missile frigate, FFG(X), schedule to avoid moving too fast as was the case for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), a Navy official said Monday.
The service’s fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget request outlines the frigate’s expected contract award, start of construction, and delivery date schedule through FFG-10. Last year, the Navy planned to buy one in FY 2020, then two per year from FY ’21-25. Instead, now the Navy plans to buy only one in FY ’21 and FY ’22, then move to two in FY ’23 and FY ’24, then three in FY ’25.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget Rear Adm. Randy Crites briefed reporters on the budget Monday and explained the Navy’s thinking on the frigate’s new timeline.
The Navy is concerned about not wanting “to have a repeat of similar lessons that we learned with LCS where we got going too fast. As it is, we’ll have eight ships in construction before we deliver the first frigate in ‘26. So one per year: we’ll award one later this year, we’ll award one next year. Right now, we’re planning on one next year [FY ‘22 request] but it’ll get re-looked at in our POM build. And then we’ll ramp up to two to three. So we’ll have 9 in the FYDP,” Crites said.
Crites said FFG(X) is currently “on track. The department plans to award the first frigate in the 4th quarter of this year and then the second frigate next year.”
Budget documents clarified the Navy expects to award the contract for the first frigate this July.
The Navy expects construction on the first vessel to start in July 2022 and be delivered six years after contract award in July 2026. The service expects to award the second vessel in April 2021 and then have it delivered by October 2026, about five and a half years after being awarded and three months after the first vessel is delivered.
According to the Navy’s expected schedule, the third vessel will be delivered 11 months after the second. Thereafter, ships will be delivered in shorter increments as the service awards multiple ships in a single year starting in FY ’23. The fourth frigate is expected to be delivered seven months after the third and by the 10th frigate it will be delivered about four months after the ninth ship.
Compared to the FY ’20 plan, the Navy generally pushed back contract awards for the third through ninth frigates a year while also moving back start of construction and delivery. The third frigate is expected to start construction and be delivered only three to four months later than planned in last year’s budget request documents. Thereafter, the frigates will start construction and be delivered six to eight months later than previously planned.
The Navy plans to ultimately buy 20 frigates as part of a 52-ship small surface combatant force when combined with LCSs.
The Navy issued the final request for proposals in June following a 16-month-long conceptual design period (Defense Daily, June 21, 2019).
Five companies participated in the conceptual design process: Lockheed Martin [LMT], Austal USA, Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII], Lockheed Martin [LMT], Fincantieri Marinette Marine, and General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works [GD].
Last May, Lockheed Martin dropped out of the frigate competition. At the time, a spokesperson told Defense Daily the company decided to focus instead of frigate combat systems like the Aegis-derived MK 41 Vertical Launching Systems, electronic warfare, and anti-submarine warfare processing (Defense Daily, May 29, 2019).