USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) is pierside at Naval Base San Diego and preparing to conduct final contract trials (FCT) in 2017. US Navy Photo CAPITOL HILL – The House Armed Services Committee released sections of its Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which recommends buying 13 ships and beginning a handful of aircraft multiyear procurement contracts. Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee
The bill would authorize the 10 ships the Navy requested in its FY 2019 budget requests, and the seapower and projection forces subcommittee recommends adding an additional two Littoral Combat Ships – for a total of three, to meet industry needs – and the procurement of aircraft carrier CVN-81 to support a two-ship block buy. Whether the full committee accepts those recommendations won’t be known for two more weeks, just prior to the May 9 full committee NDAA markup session.
A committee staffer said HASC determined the Navy’s one-LCS request was “damaging to the two construction yards” – the Navy had previously said it needed to buy three a year to maintain shipyard efficiencies and to keep both Austal USA and Fincantieri’s Marinette Marine healthy ahead of the frigate competition next year – and so the subcommittee recommended the full committee include funding for three ships. That would put the Navy at 35 LCSs total, compared to its stated need of 32, but the staffer said the move was meant to ensure the Navy had a good price point for the FY 2019 LCSs and, if either LCS builder is chosen to build the frigate, to allow for a healthy production line going into the new ship program.
On the aircraft carriers, authorizing CVN-81 in 2019 would basically shift the ship up two years, putting it just three years behind the future Enterprise (CVN-80) instead of the now-standard five years. The Navy and Newport News Shipbuilding are working now to finesse the cost-savings estimate for buying CVN-80 and 81 components together, though Newport News has said its portion of the carrier alone could see $1.6 billion in savings, and the Navy has said overall savings – including the purchase of government-furnished equipment – could approach $2.5 billion. By formally authorizing CVN-81 in 2019, the staffer said that would allow the Navy to buy the longest-lead material – the nuclear reactor – in time for an early delivery and then time other components as needed to achieve savings. USS Nimitz (CVN-68) patrols the Arabian Gulf, Oct. 20, 2017. US Navy Photo Additionally, the seapower subcommittee noted concerns that the Navy’s carrier force would hit the required 12 carriers for part of FY 2023 but then drop back down to 11 later that year when USS Nimitz (CVN-68) retires. Though carriers are challenged to operate beyond their planned 50-year service life due to relying on nuclear reactor cores for power, the staffer said HASC wants the Navy to take a close look at the remaining fuel in Nimitz ’s reactor and see if there’s any way to get beyond 50 years […]