The following is the text of a news release from Austal:
(MOBILE, Ala.) — Austal celebrated the keel-laying milestone for the expeditionary fast transport vessel Yuma (EPF 8) here Tuesday. This ship is the eighth EPF built at Austal under the 10-ship, $1.6 billion block-buy contract awarded to Austal in 2008.
Laying the keel is the formal recognition of the start of a ship's construction. The keel runs lengthwise down the middle of the ship serving as the basic foundation or spine of the structure, providing the major source of the hull’s strength.
Mayor Douglas Nicholls of Yuma, Ariz., authenticated the keel at the ceremony by welding his initials onto an aluminum keel plate that will eventually be placed in ship’s hull. Nicholls was assisted by Austal USA A-Class welder Courtney Cagle. Cagle began her employment with Austal in 2012 as an apprentice.
“I am excited to reach this significant milestone today in such a short period of time, considering we just launched EPF 7 from this bay in late January,” Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle said. “The momentum we’re experiencing on the construction of this amazing ship is evidence of the strength of Austal’s EPF program, and the continued success displayed by Austal’s talented shipbuilding team.”
The EPF program at Austal is progressing rapidly. USNS Brunswick (EPF 6) was delivered in mid-January and there are three other EPFs under construction at Austal USA’s headquarters and ship manufacturing facility in Mobile, Ala. Of the ships already delivered to the Navy, USNS Spearhead (EPF 1) is in Africa on its third deployment and recently took part in a successful anti-piracy operation. USNS Choctaw County (EPF 2) and USNS Millinocket (EPF 3) are also currently deployed supporting U.S. Navy fleet operations, including many international exercises.
Austal is also under a 10-ship, block-buy contract worth over $3.5 billion for the U.S. Navy’s Independence-variant littoral combat ship (LCS) program. The company has delivered three LCS with another seven currently under construction. The future USS Montgomery (LCS 8) is scheduled for delivery later this year.