The Navy has awarded a $537 million contract option to shipbuilder Fincantieri Marinette Marine for the third Constellation-class frigate, according to a Thursday Pentagon announcement.
Combined with government-furnished equipment, the ship’s total cost will be about $1.5 billion.
Marinette’s Wisconsin shipyard will build the 7,300-ton frigate, which is based on Fincantieri’s FREMM multi-mission design used by the French and Italian navies.
The award comes as ship designers Gibbs & Cox are working to finalize an approved design for the class that would allow the shipyard to start fabrication of the first ship. Construction was due to start in April, but the design has yet to pass its critical design review, USNI News understands.
The frigate is set to be the Navy’s key anti-submarine warfare platform and a crucial node in the service’s emerging Distributed Maritime Operations concept, officials have told USNI News.
While the new Connies are based on an existing frigate design, the plans have gone through an extensive revision to accommodate new capabilities and meet the Navy’s survivability standards, service officials have told USNI News. That design work has taken longer than initially anticipated.
Earlier this year, the long-delayed Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations bill placed a pause on the Navy seeking a second shipyard to construct more Constellation-class frigates.
“While the [frigate] is based on a proven hull design and mature shipboard technologies, it remains a new class and the Navy and the shipbuilding industrial base have had past production challenges in managing costs, technical concurrency, design changes and schedule of lead ships of a class,” reads language from the FY 2022 appropriations law. “There is concern that prematurely adding a second [frigate] shipyard before the first shipyard has identified and corrected technical and production issues will inject unneeded risk and complexity into the program.”
The service was expected to buy two frigates a year starting in FY 2023, but alternate between one and two awards a year for a total of buying three every two years.
Over the next five years, the service anticipates buying seven of the FFGs for a total of ten if the Navy exercises all of the contract options, according to its FY 2023 budget submission.
In the latest budget submission, the service asked for one Connie for $1.2 billion.