Shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls announced at 5:11 pm today that it has settled a $2.38 billion contract to build LHA-7, the Tripoli, the second amphibious assault ship of the new America class (pictured), at its Ingalls shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi — and it’s a fixed-price contract. That’s a major achievement for acquisition reformers but a significant risk for the contractor.
“Fixed price is the new wave of reform, [but] the second vessel in a class is relatively early to be introducing a fixed-price contract, particularly given the fact that every amphib is a little different from every one that came before,” said industry analyst and consultant Loren Thompson in an interview with Breaking Defense, where he is on the board of contributors. “With only one ship in the class having been built, there are still some uncertainties surrounding manufacturability, sustainment and other factors, so it might be a a little premature for a fixed price contract.”
Nevertheless, he said, “nailing down the terms of a big contract for Ingalls has to be viewed as good news.”
Amphibious assault ships played a major role in last year’s Libya intervention, supporting air operations in the absence of aircraft carriers. Tripoli, like America, is a new design that sacrifices the traditional “well-deck,” used to launch landing craft, in favor of a larger capacity to launch planes and helicopters.