Navy Aiming to Award Contract for Large Surface Combatant in 2023
The Navy is beginning to shape its ideas for a next-generation large surface combatant, a service official said Jan. 15.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson has challenged the service to award a contract for the effort in fiscal year 2023, said Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director of surface warfare.
“That’s going to be tough,” Boxall said. “Will we get there? I don’t know.” However, the service is moving "aggressively" on the timeline, he said during remarks at the Surface Navy Association's annual conference in Arlington, Virginia.
The large surface combatant is planned to be part of a future surface combatant family of vessels, which is expected to have an integrated combat system that establishes commonality among the ships. The effort will be part of an overall push from the service to modernize and grow to a 355-ship fleet in the coming decades. The Navy is looking for ways to counter high-tech adversaries such as Russia and China, which the Pentagon has identified as peer competitors.
The Navy is still defining what features it wants for the platform, Boxall said, but the service plans to pursue the effort with an “iterative process” akin to that of the future frigate, or FFG(X), program. During the frigate acquisition process, the service started by examining its predecessor program, the littoral combat ship, and then continued determining its requirements over time, he said. After the Navy begins to develop draft capability development document requirements, it will start releasing formal requests for information, he noted.
For now, Boxall said he is focusing on identifying “trade space” with industry to see what capabilities can realistically be integrated into the future system.
“It’s more important to me to get to the discussion quickly and say, ‘No, that’s off the charts, you’re never going to get that,’ and find out — from what we know already — what we can get better at and then also talk about technological maturity of things we need,” he said.
Whatever design the Navy decides on for the next large surface combatant, it must allow for future improvements in space, weight and power, he noted.
“We know there’s going to be a need for space to grow,” he said. “Do we get more or less value by extending the ship’s life at design, at birth? We’ll see how that goes.”