One-on-One with LCS Program Lead
Lockheed Martin’s Joe North gives an update on the advance work taking place for the construction of LCS 5
Spring may still be a few weeks away at the Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin, but preparation work for the Lockheed Martin-led industry team’s next Littoral Combat Ship is already heating up. In December, the U.S. Navy awarded the team a contract to build up to 10 Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). While work continues at Marinette on LCS 3, the Fort Worth, the team is busy preparing to start construction on LCS 5. Joe North, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of Littoral Ship Systems, provides an update on the progress and a look at the overall status of the Lockheed Martin-led team’s LCS program.
Q. What has the team done since the award to begin performing on this contract?
North: Since the December contract award, the team has been hard at work completing the start-up actions for the next ship in this class, LCS 5. We’ve finalized the contracts with all of our major vendors, placed orders for key materials and held our kick-off meeting with our customer. We’re focused on finalizing the master schedule and we are setting the baseline design. At the same time, we’re also working on the technical data package we’ll deliver to the Navy as part of the December contract award.
Q. What significant milestones are ahead for 2011?
North: This will be a busy year for all us, focused on some critical milestones. This summer we’ll kick off our second ship, Fort Worth’s, builder’s trials, to be followed by the Navy’s acceptance trials.
We’ll officially begin construction for LCS 5 mid-year and about six months later, in late 2011, we’ll have the keel laying.
Also, an award for the next ship in this class is expected in the first half of 2011, and it will follow a similar timeline – construction beginning six months later followed by the keel laying six months after that.
Q. What is the team doing to increase the program’s efficiency and affordability?
North: The capital investments underway at the Marinette Marine shipyard are one of the key projects that’ll help our goal of increasing efficiency and affordability.
To support Fort Worth’s construction, the shipyard completed a number of improvements to its facilities, including a 250-foot extension to the hull block erection facility (which allows concurrent indoor construction of more than two ships) and capacity upgrades to cranes, new pipe-bending and steel-cutting equipment. Additional funding is slated for the next three years for more projects, which once completed, will have reduced module travel distance by more than eight miles per ship and increased efficiency and capacity to deliver up to three ships per year.
Q. Based on lessons learned from constructing USS Freedom and Fort Worth, will there be changes made to future ships in this class?
North: In building USS Freedom, we had a number of lessons learned that we were able to incorporate into our second ship to improve efficiency and reduce labor hours. In constructing Fort Worth, we brought down labor hours by 30 percent, which comes out to more than 1 million man hours.
We’ll continue these improvements with the next ships in the class – incorporating lessons learned from the actual construction and feedback from the sailors who operate USS Freedom. One example of a change from our first two ships to LCS 5 is the use of new waterjets, which will be more efficient and easier to maintain.
Q. While these efforts are underway, what is the status of the team’s first two ships, USS Freedom and Fort Worth?
North: USS Freedom has been in operation for more than two years and throughout that time, (the ship has) demonstrated her capabilities. She successfully completed her first deployment last year and also participated in the world’s largest maritime exercise, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, known as RIMPAC, this past summer. She is now based in her homeport of San Diego.
LCS 3, Fort Worth, remains on cost and on schedule for delivery to the Navy in 2012. She was recently christened and launched in Marinette – a milestone reached just 20 months from contract award.
Q. Fort Worth was recently christened and launched, what must be done before she’s delivered to the Navy and commissioned?
North: Fort Worth is more than 80 percent complete at this point. The largest milestone between now and delivery are the builder’s and acceptance trials, which will allow us the first opportunity to put Fort Worth through her paces. Those trials will kick off this summer, but between now and then, we’re completing the ship’s outfitting and compartments, testing key systems and lighting off major equipment.