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US Navy to study proposals for cheaper small warship

WASHINGTON, March 18 (Reuters) - Senior U.S. Navy leaders have set up a task force to study proposals for a small warship, as ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and said they would set a new "affordability target" for the ship.

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert and Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley named the members of the new task force and a separate high-level advisory group in a memorandum dated March 13 that was released on Tuesday.

They told the groups to report back on possible alternatives, including a modified version of the current Littoral Combat Ship designs built by Lockheed Martin Corp and Australia's Austal, by July 31.

"In our efforts to increase the capability and lethality of the small surface combatant force, affordability must remain a critical tenet that informs and guides our decision," the memo said. It said an affordability target would be established separately and provided to the task force, but gave no details.