With the shipbuilders and our industry partners, we
continue to explore other opportunities for cost savings in the way that they build the ships and their
modularity within the shipyard. The ships that get into
their production run start-to-finish with the facility
improvements phased over time at the yards benefit
from the learning curve effect.
The cost of ships is more than just the procurement
costs. Life-cycle costs are based in part on the quality of
the product that we’re getting at the back end. Not only
are we seeing the number of man hours coming down in
the procurement costs, we are also seeing less rework on
the back end. The products are getting better as the man
hours are also coming down, so as the first six ships have
gone through acceptance trials, the number of major discrepancies has dramatically decreased. Between the first
and the second of each variant, they came down by
almost a factor of 10; LCS 5 and 6 actually came down
less than LCS 3 and 4. That translates to a quality-type
cost that we don’t have to address in the future.
Will Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s direction
to cut the LCS program to 40 ships affect the
cost per ship?
ANTONIO: We have firm pricing for LCS 25 and 26;
those are options that are on track to award by March 31.
That will take care of the 2016 contract award. It’s premature to talk about the acquisition strategy for 2017
and beyond, which is in the works over in the Pentagon.
It’s not necessarily the reduction of the 52 to the 40 in
terms of savings; it has to do more with the profile of the
number of ships that are required in a particular year.
Overall, if the number of ships procured in the Future
Years Defense Plan is reduced, there is, of course, a savings
for not having to procure those numbers of ships. But, in
general, as the number of ships procured in a particular
year goes down, the unit cost will go up. We’re examining
what that might be but, of course, that is tied in with the
acquisition strategy, maintaining competition as long as
we can, and then working again with our shipbuilders for
opportunities for efficiencies and effectiveness.
Defense Undersecretary Robert Work said the
request for two LCSs in 2017 would help in
the down-select decision to one hull type. What
role does your office have in the down-select?
ANTONIO: It would be premature for me to talk about
the acquisition strategy since it is still in review by the
Navy and it, ultimately, gets signed by Secretary [Frank]
Kendall [undersecretary of defense for Acquisition,
Technology and Logistics]. The opportunity to continue
procuring LCS in 2017 gives us time to get the frigate
design work accomplished before we have to put the
RFP [request for proposals] out in 2017. It retains the
competition and keeps both yards in play as we come to
the maturation of the frigate design.
When will the mission packages achieve initial
operational capability (IOC)?
ANTONIO: We declare IOC the first time that we take
it to IOT&E [Initial Operational Test & Evaluation] on
either of the two variants. The SUW Increment 1 and
2, which includes the 30mm guns and VBSS [visit,
board, search and seizure] capability with the 11-meter
RHIBs [rigid-hull inflatable boats], IOC’d in 2014 on
Fort Worth. Subsequent to that, we fielded the SUW
mission package on the Independence variant because
we have to have a mission package on board in order
to get to an IOC for the platform. We declared IOC for
the Independence-variant seaframe in December.
We continue to build on the SUW mission package.
We are currently in testing with the Longbow Hellfire
missile that we’re adapting to be launched vertically
from the LCS. We’ve had several successful test firings
off of surrogate platforms. We’ll get to put that on an
LCS either later in 2016 or early into 2017.
We took all the MCM systems through developmental testing early last year. All of our metrics at that time
pointed to our readiness to enter TechEval [Technical
Evaluation], a warm-up leading to IOT&E and then