top of page

Industry feedback leads Navy to change course on CHAMP


Following industry feedback, the Navy is moving away from its initial vision of a program that would produce one ship hull for five mission sets and is instead weighing using two or more designs.

The service solicited industry feedback on its Common Hull Auxiliary Multi-Mission Platform, or CHAMP, concept, which would have produced a newly constructed, reconfigurable hull that could be used for strategic sealift, aviation intermediate maintenance support, medical services, command and control and submarine tending.

"Industry has indicated . . . and the Navy agrees that exploration of the use of two or more new, modified, or conversion designs may provide a more affordable and ultimately more operationally effective solution to the CHAMP requirements," Navy spokeswoman Colleen O'Rourke said in a statement.


The Navy said in September it would issue a request for proposals by the end of December and award multiple contracts for industry studies. A concept design option could be awarded in FY-19 and a preliminary design option could be exercised in FY-20. O'Rourke confirmed this time line remains on track.


In interviews with Inside the Navy, representatives from two shipbuilders -- General Dynamics NASSCO and Austal -- said their companies sent the Navy white papers advocating the service study how existing hulls could be modified to make them suitable for one or more of the CHAMP missions.


The companies separately suggested the service already has the foundations for four of CHAMP's five mission sets. The remaining mission, strategic sealift, will likely require a clean-sheet design, a NASSCO executive said, because the Navy's most recent cargo ship design, the Watson class, is more than two decades old.


Wisconsin-based shipbuilder Fincantieri Marinette Marine told ITN it did not respond to the Navy's solicitations because a ship with CHAMP's envisioned size requirements cannot navigate the canal system linking the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.


A spokeswoman for Huntington Ingalls Industries declined to comment, citing the potential future competition.


Earlier this year, Congress authorized and appropriated $36 million -- double what was requested -- for CHAMP to accommodate accelerating its procurement time line.


"The first CHAMP procurement will be requested in FY-28, as highlighted in the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan, with first delivery in FY-31," states a report on surge sealift recapitalization the Navy sent Congress in March.


"Procurement would continue through FY-40. CHAMP procurement could accelerate to as early as FY-23 with funding and congressional support," the report continues.


The FY-19 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Navy secretary to send Congress a business case analysis on recapitalization options by December 2018.

This week, Vice Adm. William Merz, the Navy's top requirements officer, compared the ongoing dialogue with industry about CHAMP to the service's approach in determining the requirements for its future frigate.


"We don't know if it's achievable or not, we are just starting out on this endeavor," he told reporters after a Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee hearing this week.


"We set a tremendously healthy precedence with the frigate on this dialogue with industry up front, so we'll learn early the feasibility of a common hull," he continued.


Expeditionary Sea Base

Tom Wetherald, director of business development at General Dynamics NASSCO, said the company's Expeditionary Sea Base could be an entry point for industry studies on a hull to execute the aviation maintenance or submarine tending missions.


"We are proposing that perhaps the 'common' in the CHAMP acronym be broadened to include ships that are already 'common' to the fleet," he said.

The aviation logistics support container ships Wright (T-AVB-3) and Curtiss (T-AVB-4) execute the aviation maintenance mission. However, the Wright and Curtiss are "really re-purposed break bulk cargo ships," while the ESB is an aviation ship, Wetherald said.


"It's got a hangar for two MV-22s or two CH-53s, it's got a large flight deck," he said. "In order to do the mission, we'd have to configure it with additional personnel berthing . . . and we've done a concept design for that."


The ship would also have to stow the specialized containers the Marine Corps uses for intermediate aviation maintenance. "We've done a concept for that and believe that can be done pretty effectively," Wetherald said.


The ESB could also be considered for the submarine tending mission because of its power-generation capability, Wetherald said.


"The ESB has a total generating capacity of 24.5 megawatts of which roughly 16 megawatts is used when the ship is at full speed," he said. "Thus, at anchor, that power would be available to support submarines."


Expeditionary Fast Transport

Larry Ryder, senior director for business development and customer relations at Austal, said a modified version of the Expeditionary Fast Transport could satisfy CHAMP's medical and command and control missions.


"The ships would be smaller and therefore the [concept of operations] would be modified from the current platform, but we believe the EPF versions would be more responsive and offer more operational utility and flexibility to the fleet commanders," he said.


While the interiors for a medical ship and a command-and-control ship would be different, they have similar requirements for hulls and propulsion, he added.


"The medical ship could execute an aggressive engagement schedule when not required to support missions or contingencies," he said. "The command-and-control ship could be used for many exercises, including as an afloat C2 platform for maneuver exercises ashore."


Ryder also said the EPF's shallow draft allows it access into a greater number of ports and operating areas than larger, deep-draft platforms.

Using an existing hull design could cut costs because hot production lines and logistics infrastructures are already in place.


"The training, the sustainment, the manuals, all that is out there," Ryder said. "A big piece of the investment in a shipbuilding program has already been made by the Navy."


Both NASSCO's ESB and Austal's EPF are still in production.

bottom of page