Navy delays new combat ship contract

The Navy indicated Monday there would be a several-month delay in awarding a high-profile combat ship contract.

The Navy was expected to announce the winner of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) contract this summer. Instead, it will take several more months to weigh the competitors’ offers.

Lockheed Martin, teamed with Wisconsin-based Marinette Marine and Alabama-based Austal USA, a unit of Australian Austal Ltd., are competing for the contract, which is initially worth about $5 billion for 10 shore-hugging combat ships and includes combat systems for five additional ships.

“The Navy is proceeding with the LCS source selection diligently, thoroughly, and consistently with its source-selection plan and applicable law and regulations,” said Navy spokesman Cmdr. Victor Chen. “The Navy is taking the time necessary to carefully review and analyze the competing proposals."

In an e-mail statement, Chen said the Navy will request revisions to the final bid proposals. Those revised offers are due in September and must stay valid for 90 days, he said.

“The Navy intends to make a contract award as expeditiously as practicable, consistent with its source selection plan, but in any event prior to the expiration of such offers,” he said.

The Navy plans to buy 55 ships designed to sweep for mines in coastal waters, fight pirates and chase drug smugglers. The entire deal could be worth as much a $28 billion over several decades. The LCS is also seen as critical to the Navy's plans to increase its fleet size to 313 ships.

The LCS program has not been devoid of problems. Almost a year ago, the Navy significantly overhauled the buying strategy for the LCS after escalating costs. Lawmakers grew frustrated with the program after the cost of one littoral combat ship more than doubled, to at least $460 million for one ship.

Teams led by General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin previously built versions of the LCS before the Navy overhauled the program.

Now, the Navy is looking to award a large number of ships across several years to one contractor and build competition down the line.