Austal lays keel for fifth littoral combat ship

The following is the text of a press release issued by Austal USA:

(MOBILE, Ala.) — Austal and the U.S. Navy held a keel-laying ceremony today for the future USS Manchester (LCS 14), marking the first significant milestone in its construction. This ship is the fifth Independence variant littoral combat ship (LCS) built at Austal under the 10-ship, $3.5 billion block buy contract awarded to Austal in 2010. 

“It has been said that building a high-tech Littoral Combat Ship is more akin to making a spacecraft than a traditional warship.”  said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), sponsor of the Manchester. “These ships and their technology are impressive.  But what is always most impressive, to me is the professionalism and excellence of the officers and sailors who serve on these vessels. We are also grateful to the engineers, the welders, the machinists, the metalworkers and electricians – all the men and women who are working as a team to build the USS Manchester. I am honored and humbled to be her official ship sponsor.”

Shaheen, the only woman to serve as both a U.S. senator and state governor, authenticated the keel by welding her initials onto an aluminum plate that will be placed in the keel – a beam around which the hull, or body, of a ship is built. 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. Shaheen has been part of New Hampshire’s leadership fabric by representing her state in Congress since 2009.

Due to Austal’s modular approach to ship manufacturing, 36 of 37 modules used to form this 127-meter (419-foot) aluminum trimaran are already being fabricated.  For Austal, keel laying marks the beginning of final assembly.  Nineteen modules have been moved from Austal’s Module Manufacturing Facility (MMF) and erected in the final assembly bay in their pre-launch position.  The remaining 18 modules will follow over the coming months.

“With 19 modules of Manchester already erected, and the christening of Gabrielle Giffords just a few short weeks ago, it’s exciting to see just how well the LCS program is maturing here,” said Craig Perciavalle, president of Austal USA. “This milestone would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of Austal’s talented design and production team.”

Austal’s LCS program delivered USS Independence (LCS 2) in 2009 and USS Coronado (LCS 4) in 2013. Seven additional LCS are under construction at the Mobile, Alabama shipyard. The Navy conducted acceptance trials on the future USS Jackson (LCS 6) last week, while the future USS Montgomery (LCS 8) is preparing for builders trials later this year. The future USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) was christened June 13, and the future USS Omaha (LCS 12) will complete final assembly and prepare for launch later this summer. Modules for the future USS Tulsa (LCS 16) and the future USS Charleston (LCS 18) are in the early phases of construction.

Austal is also building ten 103-meter (338-foot) Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV) for the U.S. Navy under a $1.6 billion block-buy contract. USNS Trenton (JHSV 5) marked the fifth vessel in this class to be delivered since the inception of the program. Both USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) and USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3) are on humanitarian missions, in Central America and Southwest Asia, respectively.

By Professional Mariner Staff