Construction begins on Navy’s first Constellation-class frigate

Fincantieri Marinette Marine graphic

A graphic representation of the first Constellation class frigate. (Artwork by Fincantieri Marinette Marine.)

WASHINGTON — The construction for the Navy’s first Constellation-class frigate begins today, when shipbuilders at Fincantieri Marinette Marine start cutting steel at its Wisconsin-based shipyard.

“Since the contract for Constellation-class detailed design and construction was awarded in April 2020, Fincantieri and its team have been completing the detailed design of ship systems, placing material suppliers under contract and developing the three-dimensional model that is used for supporting production,” Rear Adm. Casey Moton, the program executive officer overseeing the program, told reporters in embargoed comments ahead of the milestone.

The lead ship in the class, FFG-62, is scheduled for delivery in 2026. Because of how long designing a warship can take, the Navy and industry regularly begin construction of ships before the design is completed. Moton said the FFG-62 program’s goal was 80 percent design completion when construction began and the service has achieved that target; the company completed a critical design review in May and a production readiness review in July, he added.

“We [the Navy] and the shipbuilder agreed that design maturity was probably the single biggest factor we could do to reduce the risk of production,” Moton said of the two year timeline between awarding the contract and starting construction. “So we held ourselves to a high standard. And at the end, there were even a couple of spots where we decided to continue maturing the design in order to meet that high standard.”

The Constellation-class frigate is the follow-on program to the Littoral Combat Ship, and prime contractor Fincantieri Marinette Marine is responsible for the first 10 ships in the program. The other 10 ships could be awarded either to Fincantieri or the service could decide to tap a second shipyard to build the new frigate.

When asked about the prospect of a second shipyard, Navy officials have repeatedly stated no decision has been made yet, but the program office is in a position to choose a second yard if service leadership direct it.

Tommy Ross, the senior civilian currently acting as the Navy’s acquisition executive, said making that decision would be an “evolving process.” Moton added that the limiting factor in terms of timing for that decision would be procuring the “technical data package,” essentially a set of blueprints for how to construct the ship that could be given to a second shipbuilder. He added it would take FMM approximately one year to assemble a TDP.

Moton also said that the advantage of waiting to buy the TDP until later down the line gives Fincantieri the benefit of refining its construction processes, meaning the set of instructions that the Navy gives a second shipyard would be more efficient.

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