The U.S. Navy has awarded a team that includes Austal USA, a $79 million contract to develop a final design for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), along with options to build two ships. Total contract value including both shipbuilding options is $536 million.
With its unrivalled expertise in large, high-speed aluminum vessels, Austal, as the designer and builder of the proposed LCS vessels, is a major contributor to the team which is led by General Dynamics-Bath Iron Works. The team’s proposal for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is based on Austal’s innovative 126 meter high-speed aluminum trimaran hullform that enables the ship to reach sustainable speeds of nearly 50 knots and range as far as 10,000 nautical miles with an unmatched interior volume and payload. The ship is designed to allow a crew of fewer than 40 sailors to fully operate, maintain and defend it.
Two teams, the General Dynamics team and one other, were selected from a field of three to proceed into this stage of development for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Those three teams had previously been down-selected from a field of six.
Austal USA’s CEO, Greg Metcalf, made the following statement regarding the good news: “This award is a major accomplishment in Austal USA’s plans to become a major competitor in high speed applications for the US defense programs. Austal USA appreciates the tremendous support and leadership it has received from Governor Riley and his staff working in conjunction with local officials to promote Mobile shipbuilding in this, the Navy’s top priority program.”
Following completion of the 16-month LCS final design stage, the Navy will exercise options for Austal USA to build the first two ships. The first vessel will commence construction in late 2005 and the other in late 2006. Navy plans also call for the additional construction of three ships starting in 2007 and six in 2008.
The Littoral Combat Ship is a key element of the Navy’s plan to address asymmetric threats. Intended to operate in coastal areas of the globe, the ship will be fast, highly maneuverable and geared to supporting mine detection/elimination, anti-submarine warfare, and surface warfare, particularly against multiple small surface craft.
Key characteristics of the ship proposed by the General Dynamics team include:
· Capable of supporting several missions simultaneously.
· Open-architecture information systems enable over-the-horizon surveillance and reconnaissance, global networking and coordinated air, surface and undersea tactical picture.
· Incorporation of stealth technologies increases ship and crew survivability.
· Shallow draft allows operations near the shore.
· More payload per ton of displacement than any previous U.S. warship.
· Huge interior volume delivers enhanced mission capabilities and endurance.
· Supports concurrent and simultaneous operation of two large (H-60) helicopters.
The Navy is planning for up to 60 Littoral Combat Ships to be built.
The award of the build contract to Austal USA will have a major impact on the local economy. The contract will create 500 new jobs in the shipyard, with a team annual direct payroll of about $30 million. Austal USA’s Vice President of Government Programs, Bill Pfister, gives credit for this project to Alabama’s congressional delegation with the following comment, “Senator Shelby, Senator Sessions and Congressman Jo Bonner have done an excellent job in providing authorization and funding for this vital Navy program
, which is now having a direct positive economic impact on those they represent.”
This contract will mean many more shipbuilding jobs available to the talented pool of shipbuilders that reside in the Mobile/Baldwin County area. It will also drive the expansion of Austal’s current shipbuilding facility located on the eastern shore of the Mobile River. This expansion will include new buildings that will triple the area of the existing construction halls. Austal USA sits
on 14 acres of waterfront property and has room to double again the facility after this next expansion.