WASHINGTON The long-anticipated award of two new major US Navy shipbuilding contracts turned out as expected Thursday, with long-time amphibious shipbuilder Ingalls Shipbuilding getting a new assault ship and veteran support ship builder NASSCO set to build the first six of a new class of fleet oilers.

Altogether, the total potential value of the deals is around $6.3 billion.

The assault ship, designated LHA 8, will be built at the Huntington Ingalls Industries Ingalls Shipbuilding yard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, which has produced all previous assault ships for the Navy. The initial $272.5 million fixed-price-incentive firm target contract is for the planning, advanced engineering, and procurement of long lead time material for the ship, with full funding to follow.

A detail design and construction contract for LHA 8 is expected to be awarded next year. The total value of the order to Ingalls will be $3.134 billion when all options are exercised.

The ship will return to the traditional well-deck configuration of earlier assault ships, unlike the most recent America and Tripoli, designed to concentrate on aviation support.

Ingalls' design for the LHA 8 features a streamlined island, compared with earlier ships. The ship will include a well deck to operate smaller amphibious craft.

Photo Credit: HII Ingalls Shipbuilding

The General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) shipyard in San Diego was awarded a fixed-price incentive firm target contract for a block buy to design and build six fleet oilers to a new design, the T-AO 205 John Lewis class -- previously known as the T-AO(X) program.

The award is for $640.2 million in fiscal 2016 money for detail design and construction of the first ship, with the other five scheduled at one per year from 2018 to 2022. The total potential value of the six-ship NASSCO awards comes to $3.157 billion.

The Navy projects a total of 17 ships in the class. Bidding for the next group of oilers is expected to be open to all qualified shipyards.

While final design details have yet to be approved, the new oilers will have double hulls, a feature required on all commercial tankers but lacking in most of the fleet's existing oilers.

As directed by the Navy, both companies bid on both programs. While a number of other shipbuilders expressed interest in building the fleet oilers, the Navy felt that only NASSCO and Ingalls were qualified to build the assault ship.

Additionally, both shipyards on June 30 received options for contract design support on LX(R), a new amphibious ship program to replace the fleet's LSD landing ship docks. The Navy plans to buy 11 of the ships, the first in 2020 with one per year from 2022 through 2031. Some in Congress are considering ordering the first ship in an earlier year.

Ingalls already has produced a proposed LX(R) design, based on the modified-LPD 17 design used for LPD 28.

NASSCO also is working on a LX(R) design, and first displayed it at the US Navy League's Sea-Air-Space exposition in May.

Engineering and design work on the fleet oiler will be immediately, NASSCO president Fred Harris said in a statement.

The shipyard, the only major construction yard on the west coast performing work for the Navy, also continues to build commercially-operated Jones Act ships to trade between US ports. NASSCO completed a 14-ship T-AKE dry ammunition and cargo ship program in 2012 and is under contract to build two more ESB expeditionary sea base ships, having already delivered three.

NASSCO has never built a big-deck amphibious ship, although from 1966 to 1972 the yard built 17 Newport-class landing ship tank ships of about 8,700 tons each.

NASSCO is one of three major shipyards owned by General Dynamics. Bath Iron Works in Maine produces destroyers, while Electric Boat in Rhode Island and Connecticut builds nuclear-powered submarines.

Ingalls has delivered all 14 assault ships ordered by the US Navy and is working on another, the Tripoli, due to be launched in summer 2017.

Ingalls, along with its now-defunct partner Avondale Shipbuilding in New Orleans, leads all shipyards in building more different kinds of ships for the US Navy and Coast Guard. In addition to assault ships, the Ingalls yard is building DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and LPD 17 San Antonio-class amphibious transport docks, along with Legend-class National Security Cutters for the Coast Guard.

Huntington Ingalls also operates Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, which specializes in building nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines.

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