On May 3, 2012, Austal held a keel-laying ceremony for the third Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), one of nine Austal-designed 103-meter U.S. Navy Joint High Speed Vessels under contract with the U.S. Navy.
Austal invited Representative Jo Bonner to authenticate the keel. He was assisted by Jeff Cellon who is an “A” Class welder that has been part of the Austal team since May of 2010.
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, 32 of the 43 modules used to form this 103-meter aluminum catamaran design are already being assembled. For Austal, keel-laying marks the beginning of final assembly. Five 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.
“Fifty-three years ago, when there were 860 ships in the fleet, a relatively small combatant, the USS Eversole, was at the right place at the right time, rescuing 14 fishermen from contested dangerous waters,” said Joe Rella, President and Chief Operating Officer of Austal USA. “The JHSV, as the future utilitarian workhorse of the support fleet, can serve a similar role, and help the U.S. Navy be where it needs to be to prevent crises and to support the nation’s other national security priorities.”
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 US$1.6 billion. Eight of the nine options have been exercised providing Austal with nine total JHSV construction contracts awarded to date.
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 4 meters) will further enhance theater port access.
USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) was christened on September 17, 2011, and successfully completed builders’ trials in April in preparation for upcoming acceptance trials. Austal held a keel-laying ceremony for Choctaw County (JHSV 2) in November 2011. This ship is about 77 percent complete and scheduled for launch later this year.
Austal USA is also currently preparing a second U.S. Navy Independence-variant 127-meter Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) class vessel, Coronado (LCS 4), for builder’s sea trials. USS Independence (LCS 2) has transitioned to her home port of San Diego. As prime contractor for the next LCS 10-ship contract, awarded by the U.S. Navy at the end of 2010, Austal has also begun work on the first ship of that contract, Jackson (LCS 6), with Montgomery (LCS 8), Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) and Omaha (LCS 12) also under contract.
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 including the combat system, networks, and seaframe control. General Dynamics’ proven open architecture approach allows for affordable and efficient capability growth as technologies develop.