Austal Hosts Littoral Combat Ship Gabrielle Giffords Christening
Austal joined the Honorable Gabrielle Giffords, her husband, retired Navy captain Mark Kelly, and ship’s sponsor Dr. Jill Biden in celebrating the christening of the future USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) today in Mobile, Alabama. This is the third littoral combat ship (LCS) in Austal’s 10-ship, $3.5 billion block-buy contract.
The Independence-variant littoral combat ship is a 127-meter (419-foot) aluminum trimaran, capable of being outfitted with reconfigurable payloads (mission packages) which can be changed to support mine countermeasure, anti-submarine and surface warfare missions. It is named Gabrielle Giffords after the former Congresswoman from Tuscon, Arizona. This is only the sixteenth U.S. naval ship to be named for a woman and the thirteenth since 1850 to be named for a living person.
"The Navy motto is Semper Fortis, Always Courageous," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus during a ceremony held at the Pentagon in February 2012 where he officially announced the name of the ship. "Unwavering courage has defined the Navy for 236 years and it is what we expect and what we demand of our sailors every single day. So it is very appropriate that LCS 10 be named for someone who has become synonymous with courage and who has inspired a nation with remarkable resiliency and showed the possibilities of the human spirit.”
Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, is a mother and grandmother, a lifelong educator, and an active member of her community. As Second Lady, she works tirelessly to bring attention to the sacrifices made by military families, to highlight the importance of community colleges to America’s future, and to raise awareness around areas of particular importance to women, including breast cancer prevention. She also continues to teach English full-time at a community college in nearby Virginia.
Dr. Biden’s is the author of a children’s book, Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops, released in June 2012. In Delaware, she was active with a nonprofit organization called Delaware Boots on the Ground, which helps families during times of military deployment by organizing community events to raise awareness and support. Through their Joining Forces initiative, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden have issued a national challenge to all Americans to take action and find ways to support and engage our military families in their own communities.
Dr. Biden has been an educator for more than three decades. Prior to moving to Washington, D.C., she taught English at a community college in Delaware, at a public high school and at a psychiatric hospital for adolescents. She earned her Doctorate in Education from the University of Delaware in January of 2007. Her dissertation focused on maximizing student retention in community colleges. She also has two Master's degrees — both of which she earned while working and raising a family.
Austal USA president Craig Perciavalle remarked, “I think I speak for Austal’s entire shipbuilding team when I say that we are excited to be building a ship named after such an amazing person. Gabrielle Giffords’ courage and tenacity in the face of adversity is well-represented in the short history of the Littoral Combat Ship program.” He praised the shipbuilders, saying “I’m proud to say that Austal’s workforce shows the same commitment and dedication that both of these women representing this ship have demonstrated throughout their careers, growing exponentially in a short period of time completing milestone after milestone making Austal highly successful and the largest private employer in south Alabama.”
The vessel has a maximum speed of more than 40 knots. The Independence-variant combines superior seakeeping, endurance, and speed with the volume and payload capacity needed to support emerging missions – today and in the future. The ship was launched in February and is making preparations for trials and delivery in 2016.
Navy tradition dictates that each ship constructed for the service be honored on four historic ceremonial occasions: keel-laying, christening, commissioning, and decommissioning. When a Navy ship is christened, the recently constructed ship is solemnly dedicated, named, and committed to the sea.
Over 400 naval and shipyard guests attended the ceremony, which was held on the east bank of the Mobile River at Austal’s waterfront facility. The Honorable Dennis V. McGinn, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment was the principal speaker at the event.
The LCS program is in full swing at Austal USA with seven ships under construction at this time. Jackson (LCS 6) is preparing for acceptance trials the week of June 22. Montgomery (LCS 8) is preparing for trials and delivery later this year. Final assembly is well underway on Omaha (LCS 12) and Manchester (LCS 14). Modules for Tulsa (LCS 16) and Charleston (LCS 18) are under construction in Austal’s Module Manufacturing Facility.
Austal has also been contracted by the U.S. Navy to build ten 103-meter (338-foot) Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV) under a ten-ship, $1.6 billion contract, five of which have already been delivered.
Austal USA is a full-service shipyard offering design, construction and high-speed vessel service and repair. As Austal USA continues to expand its service and repair capabilities, the company is well-positioned for new business with engineering, test and trials capabilities, a new west coast operations office in San Diego, Calif., and a new waterfront facility on the Mobile Bay waterfront.