The Navy released the final conceptual design (CD) request for proposals (RFP) on Tuesday for its new future frigate program, the Guided-Missile Frigate (FFG(X)), in a post on FedBizOpps.

Last month Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) issued a presolicitation notice outlining the uses and capabilities it wants in the new frigate. It aims to support combatant and fleet commanders by supplementing undersea and surface warfare capabilities, relieve larger vessels from routine duties during non-war operations, extending the fleet tactical grid, and hosting unmanned systems (Defense Daily, Oct. 17).

An MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter prepares to land on the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) off the coast of Southern California. Photo: U.S. Navy
An MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter prepares to land on the littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) off the coast of Southern California.
Photo: U.S. Navy

A summer Request for Information (RFI) named the capabilities the Navy is seeking in the frigate and that the service is looking to divide ship operations into three phases, ranging from lower level missions to relieve high-end ship demands up to aggregating the frigates into strike groups and surface action groups (Defense Daily, July 13).

The Navy previously noted the FFG(X) aims to be able to “robustly defend itself” during conduct if independent operations while contributing to the fleet tactical grid. This is in contrast with frequent criticisms of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), which has more limited surface combat capabilities.

Frigate construction will occur in U.S. shipyards and to be eligible for this conceptual design contract offerors must have a parent design to begin with. The RFP defined a parent design as “a design of a ship that has been through production and demonstrated (full scale) at sea.”

The contractor will accomplish engineering efforts to develop an integrated ship design based on a parent design that meets the Navy’s FFG(X) system specifications, the RFP said.

“The parent design is a really interesting thing, because that means you’re not going to a white board with a wish list of requirements, you’re starting out with stuff that’s already been proven,” Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] president and CEO Mike Petters said today in a quarterly earnings call.

Petters said the Navy has recognized starting with a clean sheet white board, the start of what they want on the ship, “and creating a wish list and then trying to jam in a 10 pounds of requirements in a 5-pound stack of budget” is not the best way to get a ship.

He added the use of a parent design is “pretty exciting for us. We know how to do that. It’s right in our lane of how do we create more capability and more investment, and accelerate the production of those ships.”

In August, Petters said HII may compete for the FFG(X) using the Coast Guard National Security Cutter (NSC) depending on how requirements work out (Defense Daily, Aug. 3).

The RFP also noted program Executive Office, Littoral Combat Ships’ (PEO LCS) Frigate Program Office (PMS 515) will host an unclassified Industry Day on Nov. 17 at Alion Science and Technology’s Washington, D.C., office.

“The purpose of this Industry Day is to provide information related to the FFG(X) CD phase requirements and objectives to interested contractors on the Navy’s plans to design, develop, and construct Guided Missile Frigates,” the notice said.

The RFP noted that awardees will hold two Design Reviews with the government. The first will be 240 days after contract award  to report on progress and status of the design effort and the second will occur about 45 days before the end of the period of performance and will include updates on the topics in the first design review, plus the contractor’s assessment of the maturity of the overall ship design.

Under this concept design RFP the awardee will conduct monthly technical exchange meetings with the government to solicit feedback from the government regarding characteristics of the awardee’s design and technical approach. The first meeting will occur about 30 days after contract award.

The Navy previously highlighted the program will include early industry involvement to mature industry designs to meet FFG(X) capability, thus reducing frigate contracting risks.

The FFG(X) was originally the next step following LCS in a small surface combatant role, but is now open to a wider set of both domestic and international hulls. It is set to eventually use over-the-horizon (OTH) and anti-ship missiles, defenses against raids of small boats, integrated operations with destroyers and cruisers, and active and passive undersea sensing capabilities.

In the original RFI the Navy said it was interested in understanding trade space surrounding the addition of launcher capability to support the Raytheon [RTN] Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) Block 1 and/or Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Active missiles.

The frigate is expected to have a service life of 25 years and a crew of up to 200.