MARINETTE, Wisc. – Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said he is committed to plans to buy more than 50 littoral combat ships despite budgetary concerns and questions about their cost.
Mabus spoke Sept. 12 at Marinette Marine Corp., where four of the ships designed to operate in shallow waters are under construction, according to Press-Gazette Media. Funding has been secured for three more.
I use this program as an example of what can be done and how something that was, at the beginning, costly and had some problems, but working together we’ve lowered that cost dramatically, Mabus said. We’re absolutely committed to building the whole class of 52 ships of this class.
It’s the future of the Navy and the future of how we fight.
The first littoral combat ship built at Marinette Marine cost $750 million, but Mabus said the per-ship cost is decreasing as more are built and is eventually expected to be about $393 million.
The littoral ship program has been a subject of debate in the federal government because of the cost and questions about the early design and performance. The Government Accountability Office suggested earlier this summer that the Navy limit its purchases of the ships.
Mabus said the questions are similar to those raised at the start of other naval programs that turned out well in the end.
There are people in the Navy who still don’t like LCS, and they don’t like it because it’s new, he said. That’s happened every single time we’ve built a new ship … Every time we build a new ship people say it’s not going to work and every single time they’ve been wrong.
Littoral combat ships have two designs. Marinette Marine is building the Lockheed Martin version, and a second design is being used by Austal USA in Alabama.
Chuck Goddard, president and CEO of Marinette Marine, said the company plans to add another 157 workers at the construction site, with total employment exceeding 1,500 in the next year. The company has been working with the Navy and Lockheed Martin to reduce construction time and cost, he said.
By the time we get done with the 10th ship under this contract, it will be half the price of what that first ship was, Goddard said. That’s the kind of learning we’re able to achieve here. AP