WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy on Friday awarded Ingalls Shipbuilding a $1.3 billion contract for the detailed design and construction of the next San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, just weeks after Navy and Marine Corps leaders got into a debate about the ship’s cost.

This announcement comes after the Navy awarded Ingalls $240 million in advanced procurement funds in June 2022 for long-lead-time material and conducting advance construction activities.

In total, the Navy will pay Ingalls $1.54 billion for LPD-32 construction, though the total cost of the ship is higher as the service will buy some systems separately as government-furnished equipment.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday earlier this month said the Navy hadn’t awarded this deal yet because of concerns about the program’s rising cost.

Speaking at the McAleese Defense Programs Conference, Gilday said LPD-32 would cost $1.9 billion to $2 billion, which he said is more than past ships in the class.

Ingalls spokeswoman Kimberly Aguillard told Defense News at the time the shipbuilder had held its costs steady, despite changes the Navy incorporated into the LPD design and external challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, labor shortfalls and rising inflation.

“In 2016, LPD 28 was awarded for $1.47B (shipbuilder cost) and seven years later LPD 32 was negotiated with additional scope for $1.54B (shipbuilder cost), or within 5% of the LPD 28 award,” she wrote in an email.

Fiscal 2024 Navy budget documents indicate the service expects to spend $1.50 billion, $1.53 billion and $1.56 billion, respectively, on LPDs 30, 31 and 32.

Their planned total cost, including government-furnished equipment, is listed at $1.86 billion, $1.96 billion and $1.92 billion, respectively.

Gilday said rising costs contributed to the Pentagon’s decision to truncate the production line after LPD-32 and seek a less expensive way to buy future amphibious ships. Under consideration are scaled-down designs for the ship that a Marine Corps leader called unacceptable to the service.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger, criticizing the pause, said at the McAleese event the Ingalls workforce is “right at the point in the curve that’s the most efficient, and we’re going to take a timeout.”

LPD-32 will be the 16th San Antonio-class ship and the third of the Flight II configuration. The Defense Department’s contract announcement notes work on the ship will be completed by September 2029.

Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.

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