Mississippi shipyard loses $795M Navy contract to Wisconsin shipbuilder

Published 5:36 pm Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Navy awarded a contract for up to 10 frigates to a Wisconsin shipbuilder on Thursday as the Navy seeks to build smaller, lethal multi-mission warships during a time of growing threats. Mississippi’s Huntington Ingalls was a finalist in the contract process.

The $795 million contract calls Fincantieri Marinette Marine to move forward with design and construction of the lead ship, with options for up to nine more frigates, the Navy announced. The contract carries a value of $5.6 billion if all 10 ships are built, the Navy said.

“The Navy’s guided-missile frigate will be an important part of our future fleet,” Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, said in a statement.

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Construction will begin in Marinette, Wisconsin, by April 2022, and the first ship will be delivered in 2026, James Geurts, the Navy’s assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition, told reporters.

Three other shipyard were finalists: General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works in Maine, Austal USA of Alabama, and Huntington Ingalls of Mississippi.

Frigates are multi-mission ships that smaller and less costly than the Navy’s fleet of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Bath Iron Works helped to design the last frigates, the Oliver Hazard Perry class, which retired from duty in 2015.

The Navy is seeking smaller warships that would be more lethal and heavily armored compared to the Navy’s current line of small, speedy warships known as littoral combat ships. The littoral combat ships have been criticized for being lightly armored and lacking firepower.

The total cost of the first frigate, including design costs and other factors, is expected to be $1.28 billion while the average costs of the rest of the ships would be $781 million apiece, Geurts said.

The Navy pressed to expedite the process by using existing designs.

Fincantieri Marinette Marine drew upon the Italian-French design, while Bath Iron Works partnered with a Spanish company. Ingalls drew from ships it has built, and Austal USA proposed an updated version of its all-aluminum littoral combat ship.