Bath Iron Works, shown here, is among four contractors vying for the job of designing and producing 20 frigates for the Navy. BIW’s design will be built on a hull used by Navantia, a shipyard in Spain. (Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record)

BATH — A report released Tuesday by the Congressional Research Service states that the number of shipyards competing to design and build the next generation of warship has narrowed by one after a firm chose not to submit a design.

Bath Iron Works is one of five contractors invited to submit concept designs, including Austal USA of Alabama, Huntington Ingalls of Mississippi, Lockheed Martin of Baltimore and Fincantieri Marinette Marine of Wisconsin. Lockheed Martin chose not to submit a conceptual design, meaning the Bath shipyard is now among four companies vying to design the warship.

The Navy is looking to purchase 20 of the yet-unnamed FFG(X)s. The winning contractor will be expected to produce two frigates per year from 2021 and 2029 at a cost of about $900 million each. 

In April 2013 the Navy announced BIW was awarded $14.95 million to create a concept design for its new class of guided-missile frigate. 

The Navy will use the submitted concept designs to develop the final specifications for the FFG(X). The designs must be based on an existing frigate that has been through production and demonstrated at sea in order to reduce cost and delays. The parent design could be a U.S. ship design or a foreign ship design. 

BIW has chosen to design a frigate based on a hull used by Navantia, a shipyard in Spain.

BIW Spokesperson David Hench said the BIW is confident the design, “will meet the Navy’s needs and that our proposal for the detail design and construction of the future frigate will be a strong contender.”

According to the report, “the Navy’s proposed 2020 budget requests ($1.28 billion) for the procurement of the first FFG(X). The Navy’s FY2020 budget submission shows that subsequent ships in the class are estimated by the Navy to cost roughly $900 million each.”

In contrast to cruisers and destroyers, which are designed to operate in higher-threat areas, frigates are generally intended to operate in lower-risk settings, according to the report. For this reason, they are equipped with fewer weapons, less-capable radars and other systems and have less engineering redundancy and survivability than cruisers and destroyers.

The most recent class of frigates operated by the Navy was the Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7), of which a total of 51 were built and later decommissioned between 1994 and 2015. BIW was one of the shipyards to manufacture that class of frigate.

The FFG-7s were about 455 feet long and around 4,000 tons.

In contrast, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, the workhorse of the Navy, are about 510 feet long and weigh in at roughly 9,300 tons. BIW and Ingalls are the only two shipyards manufacturing that class of vessel.

The Navy’s call for frigates is a drastic change from its now-abandoned push to build a fleet of Zumwalt-class destroyers. 

In the early 2000s, the Navy hoped to build 32 highly advanced stealth destroyers, constructed solely at BIW. The Zumwalt-class destroyers measure 610 feet in length, cost $7 billion per ship, and were packed full of the latest technology and a redesigned body that makes them appear much smaller on radar. The Navy later reduced its order to only three due to cost overruns. The last in the class, the future USS Lyndon B. Johnson, is now under construction.

Should BIW win the frigate contract, it will produce 20 frigates alongside 11 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

In 2016, the shipyard lost out on a $10.5 billion contract to build a new generation of cutters for the Coast Guard to Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Panama City, Florida. With Zumwalt construction wrapping up, the Navy’s Arleigh Burke destroyer program accounts for virtually all of the shipyard’s work.

BIW is in the process of hiring 1,000 new employees, effectively expanding its workforce and making it more capable of producing ships faster.

“Increases in efficiencies throughout the shipyard and the ongoing expansion of our workforce are improving our ability to compete for this new work and keep good-paying manufacturing jobs right here in Midcoast Maine,” said Hench. 

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