BATH, Maine (AP) - The Navyâ€™s fast-and-maneuverable littoral combat ship was criticized for lacking enough firepower and armor to survive a maritime battle. The Navy is addressing those concerns with a new class of small-but-powerful frigates that will pack a bigger punch.
The Navy asked this month for concept proposals for multi-mission warships that would be bigger and more heavily armed - and slower - than the littoral combat ships. They would be capable of shooting down airplanes, attacking other ships and countering submarines.
â€śThe Navy has decided that speed is less important than having a warship with sufficient weapons to defend itself,â€ť said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute.
The Navy, which wants to build 20 frigates, is seeking an affordable design, and its directive calls for shipbuilders to use an existing design to expedite the process. The aggressive timetable calls for conceptual proposals next month. The first two ships are to be procured in 2020 and 2021.
Large Navy shipbuilders like Maineâ€™s Bath Iron Works and Mississippiâ€™s Ingalls Shipbuilding are among a half-dozen defense contractors expected to bid on the work. Smaller shipyards like Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Wisconsin and Austal USA in Alabama are also expected to compete.
At Bath Iron Works, a General Dynamics subsidiary, officials examined U.S. and foreign designs to meet Navy requirements and partnered with a Spanish company, Navantia, to utilize an existing design from a Spanish navy frigate, said Dirk Lesko, the shipyardâ€™s president.
The proposal marks a new direction for the Navy at a time when the Trump administration has vowed to increase the size of the fleet.
The Navy has a goal of 355 ships.
It addresses lessons learned from the littoral combat ships, which were supposed to be an affordable way of countering post-Cold War threats including pirates and swarm boats.