Navy re-considering LCS downselect decision

By Justin Doubleday / March 22, 2017 at 3:02 PM

The Navy may not necessarily down select to one Littoral Combat Ship prime contractor, according to a top admiral.

The decision on whether or not to down select to one version of the LCS and future frigate will be revealed in the fiscal year 2018 budget request, Vice Adm. David Johnson, the principal military assistant to the Navy acquisition chief, said March 22 during the McAleese/Credit Suisse Defense Programs Conference in Washington.

Details on the FY-18 defense budget are expected to be revealed in May. For now, the LCS program is split between two prime contractors. A Lockheed Martin-led team constructs the Freedom variant of the ship in Marinette, WI, while Austal USA builds the Independence version in Mobile, AL.

In December 2015, then Defense Secretary Ashton Carter cut total procurement of the LCS program from 52 ships to 40 and directed the Navy to down select to either Lockheed or Austal to build the final 12 ships in the program as modified LCSs, termed “frigates.”

Since Carter’s decision, the Navy has publicly said the downselect is the plan.

Johnson’s comments are the first explicit indication that the Navy could reverse course under the Trump administration.

Separately, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) wants the service to revise the requirements for the frigate to include “convoy air defense, greater missile capability and longer endurance.”