LX(R) Landing Ship, Dock Replacement
The LX(R) program is the next major amphibious ship investment necessary to replace the aging fleet of LSDs. It is imperative that this is a warship capable of delivering Marines to an objective in a non-permissive environment. Replacing the LSD with a more capable platform with increased capacity for command and control, aviation operations and maintenance, vehicle storage, and potential for independent operations gives the Geographic Combatant Commander a powerful and versatile tool, and permit independent steaming operations.
The US Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan has a force of 33 amphibious warships as its objective, against a Marine Corps requirement of 38 amphibious warships. The force structure to support the deployment and employment of two Marine Expeditionary Brigades (MEBs) simultaneously is 38 amphibious warfare ships. However, considering fiscal constraints, the Navy and Marine Corps have agreed to sustain a minimum of 33 amphibious warfare ships. The 33-ship force accepts risk in the arrival of combat support and combat service support elements of a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) as well as meeting the needs of the naval force within fiscal limitations.
As of 2014 only 27 amphibious warships were in operation, however; two warships, John P. Murtha (LPD 26) and Portland (LPD 27), were under construction, and one, LHA 8, was planned for fiscal year 2017. There was no procurement funding for construction of the additional ships needed to meet the 33-ship minimum requirement. Procurement funding was paused for six fiscal years. Without sustained funding for the production and construction program of the next San Antonio-class amphibious warship, LPD 28, the skilled jobs of the industrial shipbuilding base were at risk.
Huntington Ingalls proposed modifying its LPD-17 class of ships to meet the Navy's requirements for the new program, but the cost would have to come down by about a third from the projected $1.8 billion cost of the last LPD ship to make that a viable option. Other alternatives include brand new design; resumed production of the previous LSD 41/49 class ships; and a review of foreign-designed ships. The Navy anticipated completing plans in fiscal 2014 and 2015, and starting advanced procurement for the new ships in fiscal 2018. But for FY2015 the LX(R) amphibious ship was pushed back a year, from 2019 to 2020.
The Navy's 30-year plan called for the new ships to start delivery in fiscal year 2025. The 2014 plan envisions buying 11 LX(R)s 1 every other year between 2019 and 2027 and then 1 per year until 2033, to replace existing dock landing ships in the LSD-41 and LSD-49 classes. Under the 2014 plan, the LX(R) would enter the fleet beginning one year later than under the 2013 plan. In 2013 the CBO noted that "In the 2014 plan, the Navy appears to assume that the LX(R) will be about the same size as existing LSDs—that is, with a displacement of about 16,000 tons. Consequently, the Navy estimates the cost of the LX(R) at $1.4 billion per ship. CBO puts the figure at $1.6 billion."
The Naval Sea Systems Command announced 06 September 2013 that it would issue Request for Proposal (RFP) to General Dynamics NASSCO, 2798 Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92113, and Huntington Ingalls Incorporated (Ingalls Shipbuilding), 1000 Access Road, Pascagoula, MS 39568, under the LX(R) Early Industry Involvement contracts N00024-14-C-2409 and N00024-14-C-2410, respectively, for industry involvement, design engineering services, possible test sample fabrication, and special studies for the LX(R) Amphibious Ship Replacement program.
The focus is on affordability for ship design and construction and Total Ownership Cost. It is important to obtain shipbuilding industry participation to better understand the major cost drivers, discover cost reduction / avoidance opportunities, and refine the cost estimates. For the requirements synopsized herein, Ingalls Shipbuilding and GD NASSCO are the only U.S. shipyards with requisite facilities and resources to design and subsequently construct a ship the size of a large deck amphibious ship. The contract modifications will be awarded without full and open competition pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 2304(c)(1), only one responsible source or a limited number of responsible sources and no other type of supplies or services will satisfy the agency requirements. Companies interested in subcontracting opportunities should contact Ingalls Shipbuilding or GD NASSCO directly.
Expressing concern for the future of the U.S. Navy’s amphibious warship programs, a newly formed nationwide coalition of large and small businesses, the Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition (AWIBC), on February 6, 2014 urged Congress to provide sustained funding for the construction of amphibious warships. In a letter to the chairs of the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus, Representatives Rob Wittman (R-VA-01) and Joe Courtney (D-CT-02), Brian Schires of Rolls-Royce North America and chair of AWIBC wrote,
“It is critical to national security that these combat warships and their U.S. Navy-Marine Corps teams be available and in position around the globe to respond to threats and to protect U.S. citizens. It is also critical to national security that the U.S. industrial base that provides parts and products for amphibious warships remain strong. Building these warships on a regular schedule ensures stability in construction, keeps production lines active and allows second- and third-tier suppliers to allocate their resources and manpower to support the cost-effective and fiscally efficient production of amphibious warships."
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