US Navy delays frigate contract for further requirements consideration

The U.S. Navy is slowing down its frigate procurement, taking more time to thoroughly evaluate the requirements for the program.

Speaking at the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee, Rear Admiral Ron Boxall, U.S. Navy head of surface warfare, and Rear Admiral John Neagley, LCS program executive officer, said the awarding of a detail design and construction contract is being postponed for Fiscal Year 2020.

Delaying the contract award for a year will allow the navy to fully understand the requirements for the frigate program and ensure a “mature design”, Representative Rob Wittman of Virginia said.

The announcement comes after the Government Accountability Office repeatedly urged Congress to consider delaying the appropriation of funds for the 12 frigates. The navy was expected to make the request to Congress for Fiscal Year 2019.

The U.S. Navy initially wanted to simply up-gun and up-size the two littoral combat ship designs that were deemed not lethal or survivable enough. The idea was to “frigatize” the littoral combat ships.

A newly established frigate requirements evaluation team will now examine current plans and consider adding anti-surface and anti-submarine capabilities, and evaluate how to include anti-air firepower into the designs.

Speaking to USNI News after the hearing, Rear Admiral Ron Boxall said the navy was also looking at possible upgrades to the LCS’s rotating radar that would allow the frigates more than just self-protection air defense capabilities, meaning they could take over some roles from the destroyers.

In addition to improved armament, the U.S. Navy will also be evaluating a greater number of hull designs, beyond the current two Lockheed Martin and Austal designs used for littoral combat ships.