The Navy has announced funding for four more littoral combat ships, two of each design, with options for one more of each. The monohull Freedom variant is being built at Marinette Marine in Wisconsin, and the trimaran Independence variant is being built by Austal USA in Alabama. Lockheed Martin leads the industry team building the monohulls, and Gibbs & Cox, Arlington, Va., is providing engineering support. Austal USA, the prime contractor for the trimaran LCS, is teamed up with General Dynamics as the ships' systems integrator.
The new contracts will produce the 11th and 12th vessels of both variants. The Navy also has options for a 13th ship built to each design.

Additional LCS construction beyond these 26 vessels may include technological upgrades for additional lethality and survivability, according to an article in Navy Secretary Ray Mabus reportedly told a Senate subcommittee in March that the new variant for both designs will be called a frigate or FF. Mabus also told the committee that the Navy intends to continue the 50-50 split between the shipyards. "We have found that having two shipyards and having two variants has been very helpful in a number of ways," he said. "Each ship brings some unique capabilities and capacities that the other one doesn't." Having two builders also increases competition and helps keep costs down.

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).