Lockheed Martin's Steve O'Bryan provides an update on the company's work to modernize the Aegis system and to upgrade the Freedom-class littoral combat ship for sale to Saudi Arabia.

Arlington, Va. ― The U.S. Navy’s next-generation frigate could end up costing just shy of a billion dollars per hull, the Naval Sea Systems Command program manager said Tuesday.

Regan Campbell said the Navy had set an upper limit of $950 million per ship, about half the cost of a Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class destroyer and nearly double the cost of the littoral combat ship. USNI News was first to report the Navy’s cost estimate.

Moving forward on the FFG(X) is among the Navy’s top priorities in 2018. The ship is slated to have between 16 and 32 vertical-launch missile tubes and an over-the-horizon, anti-surface missile capability.

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The cost estimate surprised some analysts, who thought the number might be lower given previous signals from the Navy. The price tag could also push out some of the high-profile contenders who were interested in the bid.

“That seems a little high to me, in the sense that’s about $100 million more than I was expecting,” said Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and analyst with the Center for a New American Security. “I do think it may be exclusionary, in that some of the designs — Navantia’s frigate or BAE’s Type 26 design — will likely come in at a billion or more.”

“Both littoral combat ship designs, the National Security Cutter and Fincantieri’s FREM should be able to meet that,” he added.

Both Austal and Lockheed Martin are offering up frigate designs based on their littoral combat ships, while Huntington Ingalls is believed to have offered up a redesigned version of the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter.

Fincantieri is offering up a version of its multi-mission frigate, known by its acronym FREMM (European multi-purpose frigate). Fincantieri is currently partnered with Lockheed on the mono-hulled Freedom-class littoral combat ship.