Shipbuilding company talks about LCS program's future

LCS 7, the future USS Detroit (Photo courtesy Lockheed Martin)

MARINETTE - It's a major undertaking at Marinette Marine as it continues to build ships for the Navy.

But there's a shift coming when it comes to what ships the Navy wants built.

One Monday Lockheed Martin, the main contractor for Marinette Marine, talked about the littoral combat ship program.

"I'd like to remind the builders that they're doing a great job and we want to make sure that they continue on that path," said Joe North, Lockheed Martin's Vice President of Littoral Ship Systems.

Last October Marinette Marine’s shipyard was full of people celebrating the christening and launch of the future USS Detroit.

Six of the same ships are currently under construction in Marinette.

But last month, in a statement, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Navy needs to move away from littoral combat ships.

Instead, he said, the small surface combatant ship or SSC “will meet a broader set of missions across the range of military operations.”

Lockheed Martin's Vice President of Littoral Ship Systems said he's confident in Marinette Marine and the LCS program.

“We’re not changing our plans to partner with the shipyard by any stretch and we’re fully expecting that they would take on every opportunity to build new ships and keep the work force stable."

Hagel went on to say “The new SSC will offer improvements in ship lethality and survivability, delivering enhanced naval combat performance at an affordable price.”

When asked how much a SSC will cost Lockheed Martin said it’s still too early to tell.

“We’re going to wait until the Navy contacts us so we can sit down and we’ll talk about what they want to do. We’ll probably be doing some additional studies in the process,” Lockheed Martin said on Monday.

Company leaders went on to say they’re looking forward to implementing the SSC into production.

“I think we need to continue to drive and continue to be affordable and work with the Navy to define what those additional capabilities are,” said Jeanine Matthews, director of business development at Lockheed Martin.

The secretary of defense told the Navy to buy 52 LCSs and SSCs with the final number and mix dependent on future fleet requirements.

The Navy is expected to release more information in May.

Lockheed Martin said it will continue to build it's current littoral combat ships at the Marinette shipyard until at least 2020.