Austal held a keel-laying ceremony for the fourth Joint High Speed Vessel Fall River (JHSV 4), one of ten Austal-designed 103-meter U.S. Navy Joint High Speed Vessels under contract with the U.S. Navy.
The ship’s sponsor, Diane Bemus Patrick, was present at the ceremony to authenticate the keel. Mrs. Patrick, First Lady of Massachusetts where the city of Fall River is located, was chosen to sponsor the ship by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. Mrs. Patrick was assisted by Doc Selvie who is an “A” Class welder that has been part of the Austal team since May of 2007.
A traditional keel-laying ceremony marks the first significant milestone in the construction of the ship. Due to Austal’s modular approach to ship manufacture, all 43 of the modules used to form this 103-meter aluminum catamaran design are already being assembled. For Austal, keel-laying marks the beginning of final assembly. Eighteen modules have been moved from Austal’s Module Manufacturing Facility (MMF) and erected in the final assembly bay in their pre-launch position. The rest will follow over the coming months.
Craig Perciavalle, Austal USA President, made the following remarks during his presentation at the keel laying event: “It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were right here in this very assembly bay holding the keel laying ceremony for JHSV 1, USNS Spearhead, a vessel that has since been delivered and is doing well operating on the East Coast. At that time, just under 3 short years ago, around 1,600 total employees were working at Austal. We now sit here today with approximately 3,500 total employees and counting; incredible navy shipbuilders whose hard work and creativity are bringing this ship, and many others, to life.”
Perciavalle also recognized the support Austal has received from beyond the physical boundaries of the shipyard to include the U.S. Navy, the many suppliers and the federal, state and local government representatives who have played an integral role in the success of the JHSV program.
Austal was selected as prime contractor in November 2008 to design and build the first JHSV, with options for nine additional vessels expected to be exercised between FY09 and FY13 as part of a program potentially worth over $1.6 billion. All nine options have been exercised providing Austal with ten JHSV construction contracts.
The JHSV is a relatively new asset that will be an important Navy connector. In peacetime, JHSVs will be operating forward supporting Navy Expeditionary Combat Command and riverine forces, theater cooperating missions, Seabees, Marine Corps and Army transportation. Each JHSV also supports helicopter operations and has a slewing vehicle ramp on the starboard quarter which enables use of austere piers and quay walls, common in developing countries. A shallow draft (under four meters) will further enhance theater port access.
USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) was delivered in December 2012 and is currently stationed up in Norfolk, Va. USNS Choctaw County (JHSV 2) recently completed acceptance trials and is scheduled for delivery in the end of May. USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3) will be launched in June to complete final preparations for builder’s trials. Construction has also begun on Trenton (JHSV 5).
Austal USA is also building the Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). Coronado (LCS 4), the second LCS built by Austal USA for General Dynamics, is currently progressing through builder’s trials. With Austal USA as Prime, six of the 10-ship block buy awarded in December 2010 are funded per the contract with three under construction at this time.
For the LCS and JHSV programs, Austal, as prime contractor, is teamed with General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics. As the ship systems integrator, General Dynamics is responsible for the design, integration and testing of the ship’s electronic systems.