Thursday, November 4, 2010

U.S. Navy Seeks to Buy Warships from Both Bidders

The U.S. Navy said it is in talks with lawmakers and industry about buying 10 new warships from each Lockheed Martin Corp. and Australia's Austal instead of buying just 10 ships from one company, a move that would expand the U.S. naval fleet faster.

Navy spokesman Commander Danny Hernandez, confirming reports by sources familiar with the plan, said the new approach would help stabilize the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program and the shipbuilding industrial base, while also expanding prospects for sales to foreign countries.

He said the Navy would proceed with its current plan to buy a single design of the new ships if Congress or industry were unwilling to support the new approach, adding: "Either approach will ensure the Navy procures affordably priced ships."

Sources familiar with the matter said the Navy decided to change course given lower-than-expected pricing in the competing bids for the new warships. They said the new approach would give the Navy more bang for its buck and help avert any time-consuming contract protests by the losing bidder.

The Navy ultimately plans to buy 55 of the new modular warships that will operate close to shore, a key part of its drive to expand the naval fleet to at least 313 ships.

The current plan to buy 10 ships from one bidder, plus computer systems forfive more to be built by a second shipyard, had been valued at well over $5 billion. The sources said the Navy now believed it could buy 20 ships for the price it had expected to pay for those 15 ships

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