Fincantieri Marinette Marine was awarded a nearly $800 million contract to build a first-in-class guided missile frigate for the Navy, with an option for nine additional ships. (Specifications of the frigate were released.) The contract to design and produce the next generation small surface combatant FFG(X) was awarded on April 30.

The award was announced by the Department of Defense following competition among several major U.S. shipyards. The contract offers Marinette, Wis.-based FMM the option to build and deliver up to 10 ships, as well as post-delivery availability support, engineering and class services, crew familiarization, training, equipment, and provisioned item orders. According to the contract announcement, if all options are exercised, the cumulative value of this contract will be $5.5 billion.

“The Navy’s guided missile frigate (FFG(X)) will be an important part of our future fleet,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, said in a statement. “FFG(X) is the evolution of the Navy’s small surface combatant with increased lethality, survivability, and improved capability to support the National Defense Strategy across the full range of military operations. It will no doubt help us conduct distributed maritime operations more effectively, and improve our ability to fight both in contested blue-water and littoral environments.”

The FFG(X) will have multimission capability to conduct air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, electronic warfare, and information operations. Specifically FFG(X) will include an Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR) radar, Baseline Ten (BL10) AEGIS Combat System, a Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS), communications systems, MK 57 Gun Weapon System (GWS) countermeasures and added capability in the EW/IO area with design flexibility for future growth.

“I am very proud of the hard work from the requirements, acquisition, and shipbuilder teams that participated in the full and open competition, enabling the Navy to make this important decision today,” said James Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition. “Throughout this process, the government team and our industry partners have all executed with a sense of urgency and discipline, delivering this contract award three months ahead of schedule. The team’s intense focus on cost, acquisition, and technical rigor, enabled the government to deliver the best value for our taxpayers as we deliver a highly capable next generation frigate to our warfighters.”

The acquisition process for FFG(X) began in 2017. Since then, the Navy has worked closely with industry to balance cost and capability. This approach was successful in achieving an average follow ship cost across ships two to 20 that is below the objective set in the CDD and aligns to the National Defense Strategy’s stated goal of achieving a more lethal, resilient, and agile force by pursuing acquisition strategies to build ships more quickly and affordably. For example, because the frigate acquisition program promoted shipbuilding competition, included early industry involvement, and open communication between all stakeholders, the program was able to accelerate almost six years as compared to normal shipbuilding programs.

The Navy released the FFG(X) DD&C Request for Proposals to industry June 20, 2019. Technical proposals were received in August 2019, and cost proposals were received in September 2019. This was a full and open competition with multiple offers received.