Naval Options: Lockheed Martin's 'International LCS' variant is one of several LCS variants put forth by the company. (Lockheed Martin)
WASHINGTON — The search for a possible follow-on to the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) took a step forward Wednesday with the publication of two requests for information (RFIs).
One RFI seeks input on ship designs, and the other is aimed at combat systems.
“We’re asking for existing and mature design concepts,” John Burrow, lead for the Small Surface Combatant (SSC) task force, told reporters at the Pentagon.
The second RFI, he explained, asks for information on “combat systems and technologies at the component level,” such as radars and weapons.
The task force was formed in mid-March to provide the Navy and Pentagon leaders with options and alternatives to the LCS. Those options, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said earlier this year, could include the existing LCS designs.
The effort is on a fast track. The task force is to submit its findings by July 31, in time, Hagel said, “to inform” the 2016 budget deliberations.
Issuance of the RFIs, Burrow said, “will really kick the engagement for us” and give industry the chance to present its ideas.
“We’re not providing requirements in the RFIs,” Burrow said. “We’re looking for what systems and capabilities are out there right now. We’re not looking for them to do a design effort, but they’ve been thinking about this for some time, and I’m sure they have some good ideas.”
The task force, Burrow explained in his first meeting with reporters since the group was formed, is developing capability concepts, along with mission and capability alternatives for the ships.
Among the options to be considered, he said, are modifications to the current LCS 1 Freedom class design from Lockheed Martin, and the LCS 2 Independence class from Austal USA.
“Each one may have a number of configuration alternatives,” he said. “In the end, when we come up with alternatives they will be tied to capability concepts that will be closely linked to the engineering analysis.”
The capability concepts are centered on four key warfare areas: air, surface, undersea and mines. Along with those areas, Burrow said, will be capabilities like speed, range and endurance.
“We have a designed set of capabilities and a level of capability for each,” he said.
Asked about affordability targets, Burrow said that while the work of the task force will “inform the process, this task force does not make affordability decisions.
“My job is to give design alternatives that include capability concepts, design alternatives, cost and performance. We’ll start big and eliminate some [alternatives], start to get it down to a more manageable set of alternatives that leadership can use to make a decision.”
Asked if foreign designs were off the table, Burrow exclaimed, “not at all.
“We’re looking at ships in production today and mature designs. We’re looking at everything,” including foreign designs.
The task force also is beginning efforts to reach out to the fleet for input on what a small warship would need. The group will travel to Norfolk and Pearl Harbor in May to begin that process, Burrow said.