The Navy said on Dec. 29 that it has awarded contracts to Lockheed Martin and Australia's Austal USA to build 20 coastal warships by 2015 for a combined total of more than seven billion dollars.
Each company will build 10 littoral combat ships, a Navy statement said. One ship each from Lockheed and the U.S. subsidiary of Austal will be delivered in fiscal 2010 ending September 30, costing $437 million and $432 million respectively.
Nine additional ships will be built by each company by 2015, according to the contracts, which are subject to yearly congressional appropriations decisions involving Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Program requirements.
Four LCS Freedom class ships have already been built and the Navy said it "remains committed to a 55-ship program... needed to fill critical, urgent war fighting requirements gaps that exist today."
Lockheed will build a single-hull LCS, while Austal will provide a trimaran -- three hulls side by side. Both versions will weigh around 3,000 tons, have a top speed of 40 knots and carry a helicopter, the Navy said.
When all 10 ships of each block purchase are awarded, the value of the ship construction portion of the two contracts would be $3.6 billionfor Lockheed Martin and $3.5 billion for Austal USA, the Navy said.
"The LCS is uniquely designed to win against 21st century threats in coastal waters posed by increasingly capable submarines, mines and swarming small craft," said Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead.
The Navy's surface warfare director, rear-admiral Frank Pandolfe, said the ships are "designed specifically to focus on threats in the littoral area. However they are capable of ocean operations as part of strike groups in the future."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010