A rendering (F101) of an F100 class frigate built by Spanish firm Navantia, which is partnering with Bath Iron Works to develop a design for a new class of frigate for the U.S. Navy. Credit: Contributed

The U.S. Navy on Friday issued a draft request for proposals to design and build the planned FFG(X) frigates that Bath Iron Works and four other companies have been designing since 2018.

The draft RFP calls for 10 of the small surface combatants to be built, with construction of the first beginning 72 months after the contract is awarded in 2020, with the expectation that a total of 20 ships will be built.

The Navy will issue a final design and construction RFP near the end of this year.

In February 2018, BIW was among five companies — alongside Austal USA, Fincantieri Marine, Huntington Ingalls Industries and Lockheed Martin — to be awarded $15 million contracts to modify an existing “parent” design that has been tested at sea to create a conceptual design for the new frigate.

However, the “open” RFP is fair game for any shipbuilder whose design qualifies.

Navy officials said in February that the initial conceptual design contracts would allow them “to better understand the cost and capabilities of the design options and inform the final specifications for the vessels’ construction at a cost of no more than $950 million.”

BIW will partner with Spanish ship designer Navantia on its design.

However, USNI reported in January that Regan Campbell, frigate program manager with Program Executive Office Unmanned and Small Combatants, told the Surface Navy Association symposium that while $950 million is the “threshold” cost per ship,“$800 million is the objective.”

The construction contract would reportedly be worth about $15 billion to the company that wins it.

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. The Maine shipyard is well-positioned to bid for the contract of 20 new frigates, which will be awarded to a single builder, according to analysts and a Congressional Research Service report.

BIW spokesman David Hench declined to comment Tuesday when asked if the company would bid on the project, but a flyer handed out by the company at the Surface Navy Symposium in January states that BIW’s design is based on the F-100 parent design “which is proven in-service in the navies of Spain and Australia and is evolved from the U.S. Navy’s FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry class.”

According to the flyer, the design is “ideal” for the new frigate because of its “proven interoperability with U.S. Navy carrier strike groups,” “high system compatibility with [the] U.S. Navy,” and because it “already meets U.S. Navy standards for survivability, combatant design features and material selection.”

Companies that plan to bid must register by March 8.

The frigates will include no new technologies or systems, according to the report. They will be smaller, less capable and less expensive than destroyers or cruisers but larger and more expensive than littoral combat chips.

Proposals are due April 1.

Follow the BDN Bath-Brunswick on Facebook for the latest southern midcoast Maine news.