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US Navy Marks Start of An Ambitious Acquisition

23 August 2002

The US Navy's solicitation last month for studies into the littoral combat ship (LCS) project signals the beginning of an ambitious acquisition program leading to source selection in FY '05.

""With the planned date of FY '05 [for the LCS contract] the Navy must have some idea of exactly what it wants,"" Peter Skibitski, an analyst with DFI International, yesterday told Defense Daily. ""They must know they are going to have to go for minimal risk and little [research and development] spending...whether they modernize an existing concept--similar to Israel's Saar V upgrade as proposed by Northrop Grumman--or develop and entirely new concept, either way I could see this [U.S. Navy LCS] project easily slipping a year.""

The Navy on July 30 said it intends to award up to six $500,000 contracts for concept studies into LCS--a focused-mission, high-speed ship. The LCS concept is derivative of work now underway in the DD(X) surface combatant technology program. The service established a project office for LCS within the DD(X)'s program executive office to foster cross-pollination of technologies between the two warship efforts.

Last spring the Navy awarded the $2.9 billion DD(X) development contract to a team led by Northrop Grumman [NOC] and Raytheon [RTN], beating out a rival bid from General Dynamics [GD] and Lockheed Martin [LMT] (Defense Daily, April 30).

Besides the major shipyards, owned by super-giant corporations GD and Northrop Grumman, smaller shipbuilders and other players--for example firms in the aerospace industry that produce composites and other high-tech materials-- could have a shot at support the LCS effort, once the Navy defines more precisely the kind of ships required and how different they may be from today's frigates and destroyers.

""As of now there is [room for the smaller yards to participate in LCS],"" Skibitski noted. ""The Navy has, so far, been pretty vague about revealing what it is after for the initial phase of the LCS program. It is wide open, though it seems clear that the Navy must have some idea [if behind the scenes] about what it wants, whether a catamaran-type hull, or tri-maran, or a conventional displacement ship.""






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