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LCS 3 Fort Worth Will Be Christened and Launched Dec. 4, 2010

As the Navy changes its acquisition strategy...again

The U.S. Navy’s third Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), Fort Worth (LCS 3), will be christened and launched at Marinette Marine Corporation, Marinette, Wis., Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010, at 10 a.m.

The ship will be christened by the sponsor Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), with the traditional smashing of a champagne bottle across the ship’s bow, followed by the ship launching sideways into the Menominee River, which divides Wisconsin and Michigan as it empties into Lake Michigan.

Joining Congresswoman Granger will be Lockheed Martin Vice President of Ship and Aviation Systems Dan Schultz, LCS Program Manager Joe North and Marinette Marine CEO Richard McCreary.

The Navy awarded the Lockheed Martin-led industry team a fixed-price incentive fee contract to build the third LCS (LCS 3) in March 2009.  Fort Worth is more than 70 percent complete.

Lockheed Martin says the ship is on budget and schedule, and will be delivered to the Navy in 2012.

The Lockheed Martin LCS industry team includes Marinette Marine Corporation, a Fincantieri company, naval architect Gibbs & Cox, and a number of domestic and international companies.  The first LCS, USS Freedom, was also built at Marinette.  It was commissioned in Milwaukee, Wis., on Nov. 12, 2008, and is currently homeported in San Diego, Calif.  Freedom was deployed ahead of schedule this past summer, conducting counter-narcotics operations in the Southern Command area of operations and taking part in the RIMPAC exercises in Hawaii.

The Navy has stated that it intends to acquire 55 LCS “seaframes” to conduct missions of anti-submarine warfare (ASW); Mine warfare (MIW) and anti-surface warfare (ASuW), and that it would “downselect” to determine which of the two Littoral Combat Ship variants (the Lockheed Martin monohull or General Dynamics trimaran) would be procured, presumably no later than Dec. 14, when the offers expire.

However, in a surprise announcement that once again complicates the acquisition strategy for what was supposed to be a simple ship, the Navy said it that it would ask Congress for authorization to change the program of record to award 10 ships to each team, which would get more ships into the fleet faster; and keep shipyards – and their workers – working.

“We’re engaging with key committee members, their staff and industry on whether awarding a 10-ship block buy to each team merits congressional authorization,” Capt. Cate Mueller, a spokeswoman representing the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, said Nov. 3.

Mueller says either way the Navy will move forward.  “We have not stopped the current solicitation,” she said.  “If the [dual-award] path doesn’t prove feasible and we don’t get the congressional authorization, we will proceed to down-select in accordance with the terms of the current solicitation.”

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...