The Navy is assessing options for supporting the Littoral Combat Ship industrial base before the new guided missile frigate replacement program begins production.
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said today during a House Armed Services Committee hearing that within the last year, the service has found roughly $600 million in deobligated funds. The Navy could potentially use those monies to purchase a second LCS in fiscal year 2019.
Industry, lawmakers and service officials have all recently stated the importance of a two-ship per year build rate as optimal for the LCS program.
Spencer told Inside Defense after the hearing that another option the service is considering to support the LCS industrial base is accelerating Saudi Arabia’s Multi-Mission Surface Combatant program. The MMSC is a derivative of Lockheed Martin’s LCS Freedom-class variant.
Ultimately, the decision to accelerate the MMSC program is up to Saudi Arabia but Spencer said the Navy could propose the option.
Earlier this month, the Navy awarded a $481 million contract to Lockheed for MMSC long-lead materials.
"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's selection of the MMSC represents a major endorsement of the United States Navy and Lockheed Martin's Freedom-variant surface combatant and COMBATSS 21, its Aegis-derived combat system," according to a Lockheed Martin statement. "With fully interoperable systems, it will help strengthen global and regional security, while also supporting the Kingdom's Vision 2030."
Saudia Arabia is on contract to purchase four frigates at a cost of about $6 billion, and has a requirement for a total of eight frigates.
Last November, the Pentagon awarded a $22 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to Lockheed Martin "for class services in support of foreign military sales for the Littoral Combat Ship program," according to the announcement.
The State Department approved the Saudi Arabia FMS case in October 2015. The sale includes program office support, study, design and construction of operations, according to the 2015 statement.