As Lockheed Martin continues to manufacture littoral combat ships for the Navy at the rate of two per year, program officials are pushing forward with a frigate design that keeps elements of the LCS and adds in weapons and survivability features from an Arleigh-Burke class destroyer.
According to a briefing to reporters Tuesday, the frigate design will incorporate the Nulka missile decoy system from the destroyer, allowing the frigate to lure anti-ship missiles away from its hull. Like the destroyer, the frigate will also feature the SEWIP electronic warfare system.
And in addition to the Longbow Hellfire surface-to-surface missiles and SeaRAM air defense missiles featured on the LCS, the frigate will include an over-the-horizon surface-to-surface missile system.
The contracting process for the frigate is set to begin in 2019, but USNI News reported shipyards may get requests for proposals for the new frigate class as soon as this year.
To date, a program cut from 52 LCS/frigates to 40 has not affected Lockheed Martin planning. The company has nearly ten years' worth of ships in various stages of planning and production, and King said officials awaited a final Navy production plan.
"Currently, the program of record that we're going to be providing is 52 ships, both the LCS and the frigate," Lockheed Martin director of littoral combat ships/frigates Neil King said.