The US Naval Sea Systems Command awarded HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding division a $1.3 billion contract modification on Friday for the detail design and construction of amphibious transport dock LPD 32.
The yet-unnamed LPD 32 will be the third San Antonio-class ship built in the Flight II configuration and the 16th ship in its class overall.
The contract for the ship comes at a time when future buys of Flight II amphibs remain unclear, with service officials and lawmakers arguing over the budgets.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday elaborated earlier this month on the decision from a year ago to pause LPD funding and look into further options regarding the program. The main driver of the decision was the cost, which went from $1.47 billion for the first ship to $1.5 billion for the second one. Gilday anticipates LPD 32 could cost between $1.9 and $2 billion.
Senate Armed Services Seapower subcommittee chairman Tim Kaine, however, is not satisfied with the 2024 defense budget request, which has no funds allocated for the purchase of amphibious ships.
In addition to buying no amphibs, the navy’s 2024 budget request is planning for the early retirement of three Whidbey Island-class dock landing ships, without funding for San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships for the next four years
“I’m still a little mystified by the reticence of the president’s budget with respect to meeting our 31 amphib requirement,” Kaine told reporters earlier this week., adding “The president’s budget doesn’t suggest that they’re making that kind of an investment to get us to 31. And so obviously digging into what’s up is a key thing that we’re going to be involved in as a committee.”
Ingalls Shipbuilding is the sole builder of the entire San Antonio class of ships and currently has three LPDs under construction, including Richard M. McCool (LPD 29); Harrisburg (LPD 30), the first Flight II LPD; and Pittsburgh (LPD 31), which began fabrication in September 2022. LPD Flight II is the next generation amphibious ship to replace Whidbey Island (LSD 41) and Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) classes of dock landing ships.
“Our shipbuilders are dedicated to delivering these ships to our Navy and Marine Corps partners, having done so for over two decades,” Ingalls Shipbuilding President Kari Wilkinson said. “This program is strong and has enabled the Department of Navy and Ingalls to establish a formidable capability based on a mature design, an ever-increasingly efficient production line, and a team of shipbuilders that keep the Navy’s critical industrial base network across the country strong.”
In June 2022, Ingalls Shipbuilding was awarded a $240 million advance procurement contract for LPD 32 from the navy to provide long-lead-time material and advance construction activities.