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Ship sale to Saudis could mean business for Marinette Marine

A look at the Multi-Mission Surface Combatant ship. (Photo courtesy Lockheed Martin)

(WLUK) -- When President Trump visits Saudi Arabia this weekend, he is expected to sign a deal to sell $110 billion of military equipment to the kingdom - a deal which might mean more work for Fincantieri Marinette Marine.

A State Department official confirmed to FOX 11 that the deal includes an agreement to sell four ships for $6 billion.

While there are indications that the ships could be built in Marinette - where littoral combat ships are built for the U.S. Navy - there are hurdles before such a deal is finalized.

As FOX 11 has reported, the U.S. State Department approved the concept of selling ships to Saudi Arabia based on the littoral combat design. When that approval was made in 2015, it did not include specific information on where the ships would be constructed - but Dept. of Defense described as them as being based on LCS variant being built at Marinette Marine. At that time, no one in Congress objected to the proposal.

Also, officials from Saudi Arabia have visited the shipyard, and officials from Lockheed Martin - the general contractor on the project - have discussed the possibility of building the ships in Marinette.

Despite a report this week by Bloomberg News describing Saturday's announcement as being for littoral combat ships, Lockheed Martin officials are not yet commenting on the possibility of getting the deal.

“Foreign Military Sales are government-to-government decisions, and the status of any potential discussions can be best addressed by the U.S. Government," said spokesman John Torrisi.

Lockheed Martin's website describes the 'multi-mission surface combatant ships' as being based on its LCS design but with more weapons capabilities.

It remains to be seen if Marinette Marine could accommodate the construction of ships for Saudi Arabia.

There are currently seven LCS in various stages of production and testing at Marinette Marine. A keel laying ceremony was held this week for the future USS St. Louis.

When it comes to a foreign military sale, Congressman Mike Gallagher said, "We work with the with a lot of friends who aren't perfect, let's face it and the Saudi's aren't indefensible in the Middle East. There's some things they do people object to and so you just have to weigh the broader picture of does it advance the alliance, does it advance our interest and my hope is that people will see that bigger picture and will support his move."

Gallagher adds, he likes the deal.

"I think it's great news for the LCS program. We still however need to compete to ensure the ship is built in Marinette but we should be in a good position to do so."

Gallagher says Marinette Marine's priority should be to build the naval ships first. But he's confident the yard can also build ships for the Saudis.

Marinette Marine declined to comment about what the possible deal could mean for the shipyard.



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