Adm. Michael Mullen, the Navy's Chief of Naval Operations, said Thursday that Lockheed Martin Corp. could lose part of its Littoral Combat Ship contract
, depending on the results of a pending review, as reported in Business Week.
Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin is on contract to build two ships, dubbed LCS 1 and LCS 3. The first ship is under construction and considerably over budget, which recently prompted the Navy to halt work on LCS 3.
The Navy is on course to decide in the next few weeks whether to move to termination or to continue the program for LCS 3 according to reports.
The Navy plans to build 55 of the new ships, which are designed to hunt mines, submarines and small enemy boats in coastal waters. The service hasn't yet decided whether it wants to settle on just one design or keep competition through the life of the program.
Mullen said shipbuilding is a big priority for the Navy, but new ships need to be affordable. He welcomed comments from lawmakers like Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., and Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., in support of adding ships to the Navy's budget. But he said it isn't clear exactly how the Navy could bulk up its fleet without disrupting its current shipbuilding plan and budget outlook.
For example, Mullen said the Navy believes the best course for its Virginia-class submarines is to build just one vessel per year until 2012. Taylor's House Armed Services Committee
subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday on whether to build two submarines per year.