Sunday, January 10, 2010

GD Austal May Break Up LCS Team


"GD May Break Up LCS Team"
By Christopher P. Cavas
Published: 11 January 2010

The partnership between General Dynamics and Austal USA that has produced one of the two contenders for the U.S. Navy's Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is preparing to break up - a reaction to the Navy's increased push for multiple layers of competition in the program.

The move is expected to position GD to build further LCS ships in one of its own shipyards, regardless of the outcome when, later this year, the Navy chooses between the GD LCS design and one from a Lockheed Martin-led team.

GD, through its Bath Iron Works subsidiary, is the prime contractor on the LCS bid, allied with shipbuilder Austal USA in Mobile, Ala. The partnership, formed to compete for the 2004 LCS program, saw Bath, with more than a century of experience building naval ships, overseeing relative newcomer Austal USA, a subsidiary of Australia's Austal shipbuilding company. GD's LCS proposal is based on an all-aluminum commercial ferry design from Austal.

All along, GD has planned to expand LCS construction to one of its own shipyards - Bath's yard in Maine or the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) facility in San Diego - whenever LCS production ramped up. The Navy had planned to buy unspecified numbers of each team's LCS, but in September the service changed its acquisition strategy to a single-design downselect - a decision expected to come in late spring or early summer.

But with the single-design switch, the Navy also now wants a second-supplier shipyard that can't be associated with the primary builder. That would mean that, should the Navy choose GD's LCS, the company's shipyards would be excluded from bidding to become the second shipyard. As a result, GD and Austal USA are prepared to split up their partnership.

No final decisions have been made, as the companies are waiting to see the Navy's latest Request for Proposals (RfP), expected to be released in mid-January. The RfP already has been delayed several weeks to allow the Navy to react to industry responses from a preliminary RfP issued last fall.

It is not clear what effect the shipyard breakup would have on GD's Advanced Information Systems (AIS) division, which designed the combat system for the ships.

Officials from General Dynamics, Austal USA and the Navy declined to comment on the story, citing its speculative or preliminary nature. >>>Rest of article>>>

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