The US Navy has capitalised on lower than expected tenders for a major contract to design and build up to 55 warships. Instead of an original intention to order a batch of ten Littoral Combat Ships of the winning design from two competing consortia for $4.8 billion, the navy realised they could get better value by ordering 20 ships, ten from each, for the same amount of money.

However, the late change of plan was not a formality, as such a move required congressional approval. This only came at the eleventh hour. Given the go-ahead, the navy placed orders with shipyards from each consortia for an additional vessel with options for nine more.

The decision to opt for both designs indicates a close match between the Lockheed Martin monohull and the trimaran alternative from Austal. The US Navy believes that having both types will offer increased operational flexibility, with eachhaving specific operationaladvantages.