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GD to Begin Design of Mine Warfare System for Littoral Combat Ships (LCS)

The Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) are small combatants that are optimized for missions in-shore. They are being designed to operate different modules depending on the missions that will add to and expand the capabilities of their standard gun and helicopter armament. One primary mission for them will be reconnaissance and clearing of minefields.

Currently there are over 20 LCS on order from two different builders who are offering two different designs. Lockheed Martin (LMT) and Willamette Marine are building a more traditional hull design while Austal USA, part of the Australian shipbuilder Austal, is offering a trimaran hull based on fast ferries they have previously built. Lockheed’s ships are being built in Wisconsin and Austal in Alabama. The decision to use two suppliers means that the LCS will be built and in service rather quickly.

Even though the two designs are very dissimilar they will operate the same weapons and combat modules. These will include ones that provide capabilities for the anti-air mission, to attack ships and mine warfare. The modules will be designed to plug into the ships.

Now General Dynamics (GD) has been awarded a contract to begin developing one of the mine warfare systems for the LCS. This is the Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (SMCUUV) which is an autonomous system that will be used to search and classify mines. It will also collect environmental data to support operations. The contract has an initial value of $87 million.

More details about the SMCUUV may be found at the U.S. Navy’s website here.

The key to the LCS will be the ability to develop these modules and make sure that they work efficiently with the two different designs of ships.

Photo of the Austal design from Surfaces Forces’ Flickr Photostream.

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Navy Continues LCS Production with Orders for Both Teams

Earlier this year the U.S. Navy had gone ahead and awarded contracts to the two builders of the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) for up to ten ships of their designs. The LCS is a new small warship that will be the a largest class of ships built over the next few decades for the Navy.

Two teams one lead by Lockheed Martin (LMT) and the other by Austal America (ASB:AUS) are building the ships. Lockheed uses the Wisconsin based Marinette Marine as their shipbuilder and Austal utilizes their yard in Mobile, AL. Each team had orders for two but the new contracts increased that to up to 12.

Now the Navy is allocating funding for the ships under these contracts with Lockheed and Marinette receiving a contract for the second ship of their order of ten, LCS 7, which will be named the U.S.S. Detroit. The ships are expected to cost upwards of $400 million when completed but the contract is for about $375 million. The Navy had previously ordered LCS 5, the U.S.S. Milwaukee.

Austal has completed U.S.S. Independence (LCS 2) and is building the U.S.S. Coronado (LCS 4). They received an order for a further LCS at the same time Lockheed did which is worth about $368 million. This should be for LCS 8 but no name or number was given.

The subsidiary of the Australian maker of high speed ferries and other ships had earlier received a contract for engineering support worth about $20 million while Lockheed received one as well worth a little more.

The Navy had originally planned to use multiple sources for the LCS due to the need for the rapid construction of so many ships. This acquisition strategy went through some changes with at one point the Service planning a single source for the second batch after the delivery of the first four ships. Due to the competitive bids received from Lockheed and Austal the Navy asked Congress for permission to use two sources which was approved late last year. This led to the similar contracts for ten ships each.

The Navy has had plans to build upwards of fifty of the ships which while they have dissimilar hull designs carry the same basic payload of weapons and sensors. The ships will conduct a variety of missions including patrol, anti-submarine warfare and mine warfare.

Photo from uscgantareapa flickr photostream.

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Greece Loses Submarine Contracts

Normally it is the government customer who ends a contract for non-performance or because they cannot afford it anymore. Today it was announced by ThyssenKrupp that the shipbuilder was ending a contract with Greece for new construction as well as upgrading existing ships and submarines. The company claims that the Greece Ministry of Defense has failed to pay them for the work done.

The original contract was for the construction of four advanced diesel electric submarines as well as modifying and upgrading three older ones already in use by Greece. In 2007 the first new submarine was ready but Greece didn’t take delivery and refused payment. ThyssenKrupp has been trying to go into arbitration over the deal but has now decided to go ahead and cancel the contract. The company has seen major contraction and loss of business due to the global economic downturn.

The Greek government is blamed for failing to negotiate or move out on the contract. There is an election upcoming and the opposition is expected win and has used this issue as part of their campaigning.

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