Now that the U.S. Navy has decided to buy both classes of Littoral Combat Ship, the sea service and Lockheed Martin have begun to eye international sales as a way of further reducing the costs of the once-troubled program.
"Since the LCS program began, we've believed this was a ship of a size and of the cost that many international navies would be interested in," said Paul Lemmo, vice president of Lockheed's mission systems and sensors division during a Dec. 29 teleconference.
He then pointed out that the Saudi Arabian navy "has expressed interest" in buying an LCS type vessel and that Israel had at one point eyed Lockheed's version of the ship.
"I think those are two signs that this will be an attractive platform for the international market," said Lemmo.
Most importantly, "any construction here in the U.S. for foreign navies will hopefully reap benefits for the U.S. Navy in terms of cost savings for their ships."
Earlier in the month, Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Gary Roughhead told lawmakers the same thing when urging them to allow the Navy to buy both classes of ship.
"I also believe The designs of the ships and flexibility of the ships, and also the costs of the ships, open up the potential for foreign military sales that would otherwise not be there," said Roughhead during a Dec. 14 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
On Dec. 29 the Navy awarded Lockheed Martin and Austal USA contracts valued at more than $430 million apiece to start work building the first of what could be a total purchase of 20 ships split evenly between the two companies between now and 2015.
We'll see what happens on the international market for the vessels, which the U.S. Navy expects to cost about $440 million each. Concerns remain over the costs of establishing a common combat system for both classes as well as the progress being made on the ships mission modules, which have encountered testing difficulties.
The U.S. plans to eventually buy a total of 55 LCSs.