Marinette Marine wins Navy contract
By Rick Barrett
Millwaukee Journal Sentinel
March 23, 2009
Marinette Marine and defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. have been awarded a U.S. Navy contract to build another combat ship similar to the USS Freedom launched last fall.
The award, for an unspecified amount of money, is expected to prevent several hundred layoffs at the Marinette shipyard, according to U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, an Appleton Democrat.
But 170 employees laid off in the fall will not be recalled as a result of the contract, Kagen said.
Congress approved $1.02 billion for the Navy to purchase two littoral combat ships for fiscal-year 2009 that runs through September.
The Navy has budgeted for three more of the ships – designed for use in shallow, coastal waters – in 2010 and has said it eventually wants about 55 of them.
Marinette Marine officials were not available for comment late Monday afternoon when the contracts were announced.
The company already has done prefabrication work to build the next ship, Kagen said.
"These contracts will result in hundreds of millions of dollars flowing through northeast Wisconsin," he said.
Last fall, Marinette launched Freedom, the first of a new class of speedy, agile Navy ships. Built in partnership with Lockheed Martin, the $550 million ship was meant to be the first of a fleet of similar vessels.
Navy officials would not reveal the contract amount for the next littoral combat ship, to be named USS Fort Worth, saying they didn’t want to harm the competitive bidding process for future vessels.
General Dynamics Corp. is also under contract to build one version of the ship.
Freedom was dogged by cost overruns that more than doubled its original $220 million price tag.
In 2007, the Navy took the unusual step of terminating plans for contractors to build another one of the ships.
Marinette Marine, then owned by Manitowoc Co., said it was disappointed with the decision but wasn’t to blame for the problems.
The next ship is expected to cost less than Freedom, said Victor Chen, a Navy public affairs officer in Washington, D.C. That’s partly because of a fixed-priced contract and also because of experiences learned from building the first ship, he said.
USS Fort Worth is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy by Dec. 31, 2012.
The ship will be used within 200 miles of shorelines to neutralize pirates, mines and other threats. The key feature is the ability to switch quickly from one combat mode to another. For example, the ship may transform from a mine- or submarine-hunter to a surface war vessel.
Littoral combat ships require only 40 crewmembers, including just three people to operate the ship from the bridge.
There’s no steering wheel – levers handle that function. And instead of propellers, Freedom uses four water jets – two inboard, two outboard – to move through the water like a Jet Ski. The water jets are so powerful they could fill an Olympic-size swimming pool in 10 seconds, according to the Navy.