The Navy released an unrestricted solicitation for industry studies of the Common Hull Auxiliary Multi-Mission Platform (CHAMP) on Tuesday that repeatedly stressed the importance of minimizing costs.

CHAMP seeks to replace and recapitalize the Navy’s aging fleet of auxiliary and sealift vessels that will start to reach the end of their service lives in 2025. The current vessels perform missions including sealift, submarine tending, aviation support, medical services, and command and control.

The Military Sealift Command, dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Robert E. Peary (T-AKE 5) steams by while conducting an underway replenishment with the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19). (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The Navy says its current auxiliary and sealift vessels are “key to readiness for rapid worldwide deployment and sustainment of our distributed Navy, Army, and Marine Corps forces” and is looking at new multi-mission ships to fulfill those responsibilities.

The solicitation said the service is envisioning CHAMP reducing auxiliary hulls from five to three or fewer common hulls. Based on initial studies and industry feedback “the Navy believes that leveraging commonality across the mission types is feasible and will reduce the acquisition and lifecycle costs,” the release said.

The Navy is conducting the CHAMP study to better understand design trade-offs to let contractors develop “affordable, practical solutions to recapitalize the CHAMP auxiliary missions.”

The solicitation noted that to adequately recapitalize this fleet the contractor has to make sure “the most extreme cost-conscious acquisition approach is selected and matured” during the performance period and the Navy’s goal is to recapitalize auxiliary missions “under extremely limited budgets.”

The solicitation also listed the priority of CHAMP missions in order: sealift, submarine tending, aviation intermediate maintenance support, command and control, and medical services. While contractors responding to the study do not need solutions for all mission areas, they must at least cover sealift and/or submarine tending.

The industry studies are also meant to complete detailed cost-benefit trade off analysis to recommend value changes facilitating affordable designs, apply cost reduction commonality and open system architecture, and evaluate alternatives to find the best-value solutions.

“The goal is to develop best value solutions with an affordable total acquisition cost,” the Navy said in the solicitation.

At a minimum, each respondent’s study will include a trade-off analysis of the Navy’s draft circular of requirements (COR) from CHAMP, commonality and open architecture analysis, analysis of alternatives, and recommended best-value solution.  The trade-off analysis in particular aims to find opportunities for changing the COR to improve affordability, the Navy said.

The commonality and open architecture analysis will examine systems that the Navy wants to help reduce acquisition and lifecycle costs. The service is particularly “interested in solutions that maximize commonality to enable the Navy to affordably bring the diverse CHAMP auxiliary mission types to sea.”

It acknowledged these solutions might require “aggressive tradeoffs” in what portions of the ship are common across missions.

The Navy cited the Naval Group and Fincantieri’s FREMM multipurpose frigate common hull fixed variant, the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) with reconfigurable mission types, and Norway’s Aegir multi-mission auxiliary ship as examples of the kind of commonality and open systems architecture it is interested in.

Last month, the Chief of Naval Operations’ updated strategy document said the service is pushing to award the CHAMP contract by 2023 (Defense Daily, Dec. 20).

These industry studies appear to respond to concerns about CHAMP shipbuilder representatives expressed back in August. Then, representatives from Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII], General Dynamics [GD] NASSCO and Austal were supportive of CHAMP but warned of a need to focus on advanced modularity and improved modernization methods for ships.

Tom Wetherald, GD NASSCO’s director of Business Development, said the company and the Navy have done the concept design, “but we believe that there’s a better way to do it. From a Naval architecture perspective, there are some smarter ways to do it” (Defense Daily, Aug. 9).