WASHINGTON – The U.S. Navy’s Light Amphibious Warship program is still on track for a fiscal 2022 start of construction, despite the program not appearing in the shipbuilding plan in the FY22 budget request, Navy officials told Defense News.
Navy and Marine Corps leaders previously told reporters the LAW program was moving ahead quickly: the program is already in industry studies with about 10 teams, and the services have plans to downselect to three teams to produce a full design and then to one team for a detail design and construction contract by the end of FY22.
Still, the FY22 budget request asks for $13.2 million in the research, development, test and evaluation budget, rather than any money in its ship procurement account.
“The Navy requested $13.2M in RDTEN to complete preliminary design efforts and continue studies to finalize LAW manning and infrastructure requirements to support the development of the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the lead ship. Of note, FY21 funding supported award of the concept study/preliminary design contract and development of required acquisition, logistics, and test documentation,” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Stephanie Turo told Defense News.
The Navy said that that funding would still support the quick timeline leaders had previously outlined and that there were no delays in the program.
“The Navy is aggressively developing requirements and the acquisition strategy to begin procurement and deliver the Lightweight Amphibious Warship (LAW) and is on track to award the LAW Concept Studies/Preliminary Design contract in the summer of 2021 while continuing to review budget resource allocation. The Navy is still planning for the Detail Design and Construction award in late 2022,” Turo said.
In December 2020, the outgoing Trump administration released a long-range shipbuilding plan that included the purchase of one LAW in FY22. When the Biden administration released its own budget request materials on May 28, it did not include LAW in its FY22 ship construction plans – though the Navy says it can begin to buy the program with just the funds in the R&D budget line.
Specifically, the R&D budget line calls for “a medium-sized landing ship that enables distributed maneuver and logistics such as Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO), Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment (LOCE), and Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) in support of the newly established Marine Littoral Regiment (MLR). It is designed to fill the gap in capability between the Navy’s large, multipurpose amphibious warfare ‘L’ class ships and smaller landing vessels. This vessel will deploy tailored logistics, select power projection and strike capabilities.”
In related “Ship Concept Advanced Design” funds, the Navy also asks for $27.8 million for its Next-Generation Logistics Ship.
“The Next Generation Logistics Ship (NGLS) is planned to be a new class of ships to augment the current Combat Logistics Force ships, through the use of commercial ship designs tailored for military applications to conduct logistics missions. The NGLS will enable refueling, rearming, and resupply of Naval assets – afloat and ashore – in support of Distributed Maritime Operations, Littoral Operations Contested Environment, and Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations. The NGLS is envisioned to be smaller than existing ships in the Combat Logistics Force, and will operate near contested environments, sustaining afloat (Surface Action Group) and ashore (Expeditionary Advanced Base) requirements. NGLS is potentially a family of vessels (a Platform Supply Vessel (PSV) and/or Fast Supply Vessel (FSV)) with commercial designs tailored for military applications. RDT&E funding will continue to support requirements trade-off studies, development of indicative designs, specification development, and on a chartered logistics ship experimentation and proof-of-concepts focused on the Refuel, Resupply, and Rearm logistics missions.”
It also asks for $16.4 million for a future submarine tender.
“The Submarine Tender approach leverages current Submarine Tender capabilities, Nuclear Support Facility, integrating new [Virginia-class attack submarine] and [Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines] capabilities into the requirements generation and shipbuilding contracts. Identified missions include: Submarine Tending, Re- arming, re-supply of material, medical/dental, Nuclear Support, Submarine Systems repair and other maintenance support. Funding will inform requirements definition, early industry engagement preliminary designs, trade studies, and follow-on assessment for Sub Tender.”
The Navy had previously poured about $19 million into similar advanced design funds for a Common Hull Auxiliary Multi-Mission Platform (CHAMP) program, but the Navy did not ask for any funds for CHAMP in FY22. CHAMP was envisioned to be likely a pair of ship designs that could cover five auxiliary missions – one of them being a submarine tender.