BATH, Maine — As Bath Iron Works prepares to compete for a new class of 20 frigates and the next multiyear contract for Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, company president Dirk Lesko told employees on Wednesday that BIW had “turned a corner” in 2017 and was headed in the right direction.
“We’ve seen a year of improvement in safety, quality, schedule and cost — our first in quite awhile,” Lesko said in a video posted on the company’s Facebook page. “This is significant because it demonstrates that we’ve turned a corner and we’re now moving in the right direction. We need to build on that momentum in 2018. We need to stay focused on what it means when we say ‘Bath built is best built.’ … There is no more capable group of individuals than the men and women of BIW In 2017, I saw us work hard to better support one another and as a result, we improved. We need to continue that, and we will.”
Mike Keenan, president of Local S6 of the Machinists Union, the largest union at BIW, said shipbuilders are optimistic about new work and determined BIW build as many of the best ships as the Navy needs.
“You certainly always want to be optimistic and hope the Navy awards it to the men and women who gave them some of the most elite vessels on the water,” Keenan said Wednesday. “We’ve done the Burkes, we’ve done the Zumwalts, we’ve got experience in the frigate program. It would be an absolute pleasure to build those frigates. It would be good for the shipyard, for the state and for General Dynamics.”
Keenan said investment by General Dynamics into the shipyard and into training is paying off.
“We’re gearing up to be competitive and to be that resource the Navy wants,” he said. “When you look at what’s being built at each shipyard, and who has the capacity to build it, we have everything that’s needed to succeed in that program.”
Bath Iron Works declined to elaborate on Lesko’s video statement.
BIW will also compete with Huntington Ingalls in Pascagoula, Mississippi, for the next multi-year procurement of Arleigh Burke-class (DDG 51) destroyers. Only BIW and Ingalls build the DDG 51, and the last multiyear procurement in 2013 resulted in each yard being awarded contracts to build five ships — although BIW was awarded the final ship two years later .
According to the Navy’s presolicitation — a Request for Proposal will be issued within the next month, USNI reported — 10 ships would be built overall: two per year in fiscal year 2018 through 2022. The Navy would also establish “option ships” in case Congress awards additional Arleigh Burkes.
The National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2018 authorizes the Navy to order up to 15 Arleigh Burkes in the next round, but the funding for the additional five ships has not been secured, according to USNI.
Capt. Casey Moton, program manager for DDG 51 Class, told USNI News that the contract will make provisions in case Congress authorizes additional ships.
“I firmly believe that both shipyards are able to compete for this contract and are able to compete with each other strongly,” Moton told USNI News. “I truly believe that. And so obviously I can’t disclose what our competitive strategy is going to be … but we’ve done a huge amount of work preparing for our RFP release and how we’re going to handle the competition.”
BIW was also slated to submit a conceptual design by Wednesday for the Navy’s new FFG(X), a new class of multimission frigate that will perform maritime security operations, supplementing the fleet’s undersea and surface warfare capabilities, according to the presolicitation.
BIW has declined to comment to the Bangor Daily News about the bids, but BIW President Lesko confirmed in November that BIW would partner with Navantia SA of Spain to submit a conceptual design for the FFG(X) guided missile frigate by the deadline on Wednesday — a deadline pushed back two days, according to a Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) spokesman.
The frigate could be based on Navantia’s Aegis Frigate, according to multiple sources.
BIW, which held the lead ship construction contract for the Oliver Hazard Perry class of guided missile frigates, delivered 24 of the vessels between 1973 and 1988.
NAVSEA will announce the concept design during the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2018, NAVSEA spokesman Alan Baribeau wrote in an email the the Bangor Daily News, and the contract for the entire class of 20 ships — reportedly worth about $15 billion — will be awarded to a single builder in FY 2020.
In order to submit a design, a company must already have a “parent” design from which to base the FFG(X) design on. That parent design must have been constructed and demonstrated at sea.
Lockheed, Austal are expected to also submit designs.
Industry analyst Jay Korman said in November that BIW is well-positioned to vie for the contract.
Currently BIW has nine ships in various stages of production: The DDG 116, the future Thomas Hudner, is in the water and construction is well underway; also under construction are the DDG 118 (the future USS Daniel Inouye), due in 2020, the DDG 120 (the future USS Carl Levin), due in 2021, and the DDG 122 (the future USS John Basilone), also due in 2021.
The DDG 124 (the future Harvey C. Barnum Jr.), the DDG 126 (the future USS Louis H. Wilson Jr.) and the DDG 127 are under contract, but not yet under construction.
Also at BIW, the USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) recently returned from builder’s trials, and the DDG 1002 (future USS Lyndon B. Johnson) is under construction and due for delivery in late 2021.
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