The Navy’s fiscal year 2023 budget request pushes back the planned procurement of the first new Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) in fiscal year 2025, three years later than initially planned.
According to the budget documents released on March 28, the Navy plans to procure the first LAW in FY ‘25, followed by one more in FY ‘26 and then two in FY ‘27.
However, early year, Marine Maj. Gen. Tracy King, director of Expeditionary Warfare (OPNAV N95), said the Navy expected to start research, development, test and evaluation within one year and buy the first LAW by late FY ‘22 (Defense Daily, Jan. 14, 2021).
Likewise, last December, Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger said he expected the LAW to be one of two new capabilities that would come online starting in 2023. Berger said the Marine Corps would take the LAW “as fast as we can procure them” (Defense Daily, Dec. 14, 2021).
The LAW is expected to be 200 to 400 feet long, transport up to 75 Marines up to 3,00 to 4,000 miles, weigh 3,000 to 4,000 tons, carry 8,000 to 10,000 square feet of cargo and primarily support the Marine Littoral Regiment (MLR). The final design of the MLR has not been finalized, but it is expected to include 1,800 to 2,000 Marines and sailors.
If the LAW proceeds at the rate under the budget, by 2027 it will be unlikely for the Marine Corps to have enough LAWs for one MLR within five years, while the service plans to support upward of three MLRs.
“The Marine Corps and the Department are getting the requirements tight on that ship before we choose to put it in our [shipbuilding appropriations account]. So there is funding in R&D for LAW,” Rear Adm. John Gumbleton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget, told reporters during a roundtable ahead of the budget release Monday.
In the Navy’s FY ‘22 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan, the service said it sees a range of 24 to 35 small amphibious warships, including LAW, as part of the total battle force fleet through 2052 (Defense Daily, June 21, 2021).
Earlier in the process, a 2020 a Navy response to industry as part of a Request For Information (RFI) process said the government intended to buy up to 30 vessels that should cost several-digit millions of dollars but under $100 million each (Defense Daily, May 6, 2020).
Since then, a late 2021 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report said the Navy reported an estimate the first LAW will cost about $156 million to procure and follow-on vessels will be around $130 million each (Defense Daily, Feb. 11).
Last month, Tom Rivers, Executive Director for Amphibious, Auxiliary and Sealift, said $150 million per ship is the target goal, but the budget will be adjusted upward if necessary to field the required ship capabilities (Defense Daily, Feb. 11).
Last July, in a Navy Request For Information (RFI) conducting market research on a potential LAW simulator, the Navy was aiming to have the first vessel delivered in FY ‘26 (Defense Daily, July 9, 2021).