There were two developments in US Navy programs as presented in reports to Congress, as disclosed on August 22nd and 23rd.
The developments are regarding the procurement of 13 new Navy LPD-17 Flight II amphibious ships, as well as a total of 52 small surface combatants (SSCs). Out of which 32 are to be Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), and 20 new frigates, called the FFG(X).
The first one is a report from August 1st on the Navy LPD-17 Flight II (LX(R)) Amphibious Ship Program.
The program was previously known as the LX(R) program and it is for the building of 13 new amphibious ships for the US Navy. It was initially planned for the Navy to procure the first LPD-17 Flight II ship in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020. However, the FY2018 budget accelerated the procurement to FY2018.
Within a US Navy shipbuilding program, the term flight refers to the group of ships built to a particular design version. The LPD-17 Flight II ships are to constitute the second version of the Navy’s San Antonio (LPD-17) class amphibious ship design.
Compared to the original LPD-17 Flight I design, Flight 2 is cheaper, and somewhat less capable. In a lot of other aspects, it is similar in appearance and capabilities to the Flight I design. The Flight II design was developed to fit Navy and Marine Corps operational requirements, as well as staying within the unit procurement cost established by the Navy.
Between FY1992 and FY2017 a total of 13 LPD-17 Flight I ships were procured (LPDs 17 through 29), the final two ships (LPDs 28 and 29) are transitional ships between Flight I and Flight II, incorporating some design changes.
The LPD-17 Flight II ship procured in FY2018 will be designated LPD-30, and subsequent ships will be designated LPD-31, LPD-32, and so on. Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Ingalls Shipbuilding (HII/Ingalls) of Pascagoula, MS, is the builder of LPD-17 Flight I ships. On April 6, 2018, the Navy announced that it intends to issue a solicitation on a sole-source basis to HII/Ingalls for the detail design and construction (DD&C) of LPD-30.
The Navy’s FY2019 budget submission didn’t request the procurement of a LPD-17 Flight II ship in 2019. Therefore, it didn’t request any procurement or advance procurement for the program in FY2019.
The procurement is to happen in FY2020, when the first Flight II ship was supposed to be procured. However, with the first Flight II being procured in FY2018, the FY2020 would be the second Flight II ship.
Issues that Congress should consider for FY2019 for the LPD-17 Flight II program are:
- Whether to accelerate the procurement of the second Flight II ship; and
- The Navy’s intent to issue a solicitation for LPD-30 on a sole-source basis, and the Navy’s plans for controlling costs and achieving good production quality and schedule adherence in the LPD-17 Flight II program in a sole-source contracting environment.
The second development was presented in a report from August 16th on the Littoral Combat Ship Program.
According to the report the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is a relatively cheap surface combatant equipped with modular mission packages. Navy plans to procure a total of 32 LCSs. The first one was procured in 2005, the Navy’s proposed FY2018 planned to procurement of the 30th and 31st. As part of the action plan on the Navy’s FY2018 proposed budget, Congress procured 1 more than request. Therefore the 32nd and final LCSs has been procured for FY2018.
The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $646.2 million for the procurement of one LCS, which would be the 33rd LCS.
The Navy’s plan for achieving and maintaining a 355-ship fleet includes a goal for achieving and maintaining a force of 52 small surface combatants (SSCs). The Navy’s plan to achieve that is to procure 32 LCSs, after which to promise 20 new frigates, called FFG(X)s, with the first one to be procured in FY2020. Multiple industry teams are now competing for the FFG(X) program. The design of the FFG(X) is to be based on either an LCS design or a different existing hull design. The FFG(X) program is covered in another CRS report.
The LCS program includes two very different designs. One was developed by Lockheed; the other was developed by an industry team that was led by General Dynamics. LCS procurement was divided evenly between the two designs.
Over the year, the LCS program has been controversial due to past cost growth, design and construction issues with the first LCSs, concerns over the survivability of LCSs (i.e. their ability to sustain battle damage), concerns over whether LCSs are sufficiently armed and would be able to fulfill their missions effectively, and concerns over the development and testing of the modular mission packages for LCSs.
The execution of the program has been under congressional oversight for several years. The issues Congress faces in the FY2019 include the following:
- How many LCSs should be procured in FY2019;
- To consider the Navy’s proposal to procure one more LCS in FY2019, after which shift to procurement of FFG(X)s starting in FY2020;
- Review a July 2018 Department of Defense (DOD) Inspector General (IG) report regarding IOC dates for LCS mine countermeasures (MCM) mission package systems;
- survivability, lethality, technical risk, and test and evaluation issues relating to LCSs and their mission packages; and
- LCS deployments in 2018.