New Frigate to Cost $950 Million Each

By Connie Lee
The future guided-missile frigate is expected to be more powerful than the littoral combat ship, shown here.

The Navy’s future guided-missile frigate is expected to cost $950 million per system after the first hull, according to the program manager.

Expected to be more powerful than its predecessor the Littoral Combat Ship, which has been criticized for its lack of survivability and capability, the FFG(X) would have the ability to counter submarines, airplanes and other surface ships. The service formally kicked off the effort in July 2017 by releasing a request for information that outlined its need for a multi-mission vessel that leverages existing designs.

Speaking Jan. 9 at the annual Surface Navy Association National Symposium in Arlington, Virginia, Regan Campbell said four to six companies will be awarded by April conceptual design contracts with a 16-month performance period. The Navy issued a request for proposals for the designs in November and received an unreleased number of bidders.

Requirements for the warfighting ship include a speed of 26 knots and cells that can fire either one Standard Missile-2 or quad-packs of the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, Campbell noted. The service has an objective requirement of 32 cells, but a threshold of 16.

Plans include down selecting to one company and awarding a detailed design and construction contract in fiscal year 2020, Campbell said. The contract will include four to six hulls. During the full and open competition, the Navy will perform a technical review and provide companies with feedback on designs that may need “buffing up,” she said. The Navy plans to purchase the first ship in 2020, the second in 2021, and then two per year afterwards.

The $950 million per hull is the anticipated average threshold cost for the second to 20th ship, Campbell clarified. This price includes the government furnished equipment, meaning equipment that is owned by the government and provided to the contractor. Some of these systems will include a mission control system, a surface-to-surface mission module and C4I suite, according to Campbell’s presentation.

Analysts previously cautioned the Navy to ensure balance between cost and capability, National Defense reported last year. Adding on a large number of requirements may lead to a large price tag, while an effort to drive down costs could result in insufficient capability, they noted.

Jerry Hendrix, director of the defense strategies and assessments program at the Center for a New American Security, had identified $700 million to $850 million for an anti-surface and anti-submarine system as the “sweet spot.” Testifying at a Senate Armed Services Committee subcommittee on seapower hearing, Hendrix pointed out that adding the anti-air capability would mean “edging over” $1 billion per vessel.

Topics: Shipbuilding, Navy News

Comments (3)

Re: New Frigate to Cost $950 Million Each

"The lead [US Coast Guard icebreaker] ship is slated to be fielded by 2023"?
Make that 2027 at the earliest.

DD at 12:31 PM
Re: New Frigate to Cost $950 Million Each

And in other news at the U.S Coast Guard; "For years the Coast Guard has been pushing for funding to procure a new class of icebreakers as its legacy fleet ages and a warming climate is turning international attention to the Arctic". "The current plan is to procure six icebreakers — three heavy and three medium variants. The lead ship is slated to be fielded by 2023 and will cost under a BILLION dollars, Zukunft said".

I don't believe they will have ANY torpedo tubes designed in. . .

Denis Mugridge at 7:52 AM
Re: New Frigate to Cost $950 Million Each

For any FF(X) or FFG(X) ship, I’d highly recommend that the US Navy adds triple torpedo tubes to the design because the melting Arctic ice might warrant the new frigates to transverse the Arctic Circle. In the event of war, lurking enemy submarines under the ice, or trailing the frigate would be too close for the use of MH-60s and ASROCs. Furthermore, having torpedo tubes could help combat submarines in littoral environments.
The FFG(X) frigate is a ship that will serve for 30 to 40 years into the future. What the USN decides to add or eliminate will have repercussions for decades to come. Surely the FFG(X) should have similar or better capabilities than the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, such as a 76mm gun (the 57mm cannon cannot hole the side of a ship to sink it, as demonstrated in a Canadian FleetEX and other videos showing the airburst capability), SBROC chaff, possible Prairie-Masker, hangar with helicopter, Nixie torpedo decoy, bow sonar, VLS, SeaRAM or Phalanx CIWS, OTH missiles, ESSM and Standard, possible Tomahawk, and perhaps 25mm or 30mm cannons and RIBs. The FFG(X) should be better than the LCSs and remedy the deficiencies and lack of armament and armor in the LCS class.
If cost is an issue, perhaps the USN can build a fleet of “hi-low” mixes epitomized for either ASubW and AAW with some ships constructed for the air-to-air role with better radars and more SAMs (31 VLS cells for over $1B) and others optimized for the ASubW role with better sonars, towed array, torpedo tubes, etc. (16 VLS cells for under $1B) and perhaps even ice-strengthened ASubW hulls and bows for Arctic sailing. These two classes of ships could utilize the same ship design, just named differently and constructed with some modifications adjusted for cost and air or sub-surface roles.
Such a “high-low” AAW vs. ASubW approach could help the US Coast Guard and their new incoming icebreaker fleet---the ice-strengthened ASubW variants could help patrol the Arctic, freeing the new USCG icebreakers from the burden of possessing missile and heavy armaments on the new icebreakers while the FFG(X) AAW variants join the CBGs. Both variants made off of the same ship design could be used for open ocean patrols and anti-drug patrols, having enough armament to adequately defend themselves in peacetime and against low to medium intensity threats. With a 76mm gun, they could still provide adequate shore bombardment and defense coverage.
The key of course would be for the USN to request that these Government Furnished Equipment sensors and armaments be installed in the beginning so that they’re there when they’re needed. The USN could always upgrade or remove them in the future, but it would be very hard to incorporate them if they’re not installed (just like the LCSs can’t have any more heavy armaments added to the original design besides Griffin and Longbow missiles).

trisaw at 12:53 PM
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