President George W. Bush’s 2009 budget provides
money for two additional LCSs, instead of the four
planned before the cost overruns. Goddard would not
say who might get to build those ships. For the long
term, “the goal still is 55 ships,” he said.
Although Lockheed and General Dynamics believe
they will continue to build LCS, Navy officials would
not rule out opening the future construction contracts
to a new round of bidding.
Asked about that, Roughead said: “I personally
favor having as wide [a choice] as possible for builders
around the country.”
Northrop Grumman, the Navy’s largest shipbuilder,
has shown interest in getting into the LCS program,
offering a variant of the National Security Cutter it is
building for the Coast Guard.
While the Navy sorts out the future of the LCS
seaframe, it is moving ahead in the development and
production of the mission packages, which previously
were called “mission modules.”
Each of the mission packages (MPs) is “comprised of
individual modules, which incorporate mission systems
such as offboard remote vehicles, sensors or weapons,”
NAVSEA said in a written response to questions. The
first mine-countermeasures package was delivered Sept.
14. The first surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare
mission packages will be delivered in the fourth quarter
of this fiscal year.
The Mission Package Computing Environment,
which controls the MP while it is on the seaframe, is
planned for delivery to support the first ship installation this year, NAVSEA said. The Navy currently plans
to buy 64 MPs for 55 seaframes.
That is a major change from the initial plans, which
were to buy three mission modules for each LCS, at an
estimated cost of $63 million per module, said Robert
Work, naval analyst for the Center for Strategic and
Budgetary Assessments. The new ratio, which would
mean an average added cost per ship of $73 million,
would bring the total cost for each mission-capable
LCS to $533 million, Work said.
While that is a lot higher than the numbers the Navy
presented early in the LCS program, it is a lot less than it
has paid for any warship in a long time, Work said. ■