March 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy has issued a draft request for proposals for the design and construction of the next generation of guided missile frigates under the FFG(X) program.
The Naval Sea Systems Command on Friday published the draft RFP, with the Navy seeking detail, design and construction for the first 10 vessels of the class.
Submissions must be based on an existing U.S. or allied hull now in service, the Navy said in the request.
The Navy plans to issue a final version of the RFP, with final bids due by the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2019 and a contract expected to be awarded sometime in 2020.
The first ship would be outfitted 72 months after contract award.
Initially, the Navy wants 10 FFG(X) ships, with post-delivery availability support, engineering and class services, crew familiarization, training equipment and provisioned item orders. In all, the branch expects to build 20 ships, based on a 2019 report to the U.S. Congress of long-term needs.
The Navy wants more weapons and capabilities than the two current littoral combat ships currently in production, which officials have said is the motivation for the program.
Navy acquisition executive Hondo Geurts told Congress last year he anticipates the lead ship's cost will be $1.2 billion.
The Navy awarded five development contracts in July 2018 to shipbuilders to refine an existing parent hull design as a basis for the frigate. The $15 million contracts were awarded to Huntington Ingalls Industries, Austal USA, Lockheed Martin, Fincantieri Marine and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works to refine their own frigate parent designs.
Other shipbuilders, however, can submit a bid draft, which must be received by April 1. Those bidding must must have a secret facility clearance by the time of award.
The Navy expects the FFG(X) to be outfitted with a vertical launch system for a variety of missiles, surface-to-surface missiles such as the Hellfire, anti-submarine systems and other weapons. Included will be parts of the AEGIS weapons system currently in use, a helicopter and small boats.
"As part of the Navy's Distributed Maritime Operations Concept, the FFG(X) small surface combatant will expand blue force sensor and weapon influence to enhance the overall fleet tactical picture while challenging adversary intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and tracking efforts," officials wrote in the RFP. "FFG(X) will also contribute to the Navy the nation needs by relieving large surface combatants from the stress of routine duties during operations other than war."