May 28, 2004
The GD-Bath Iron Works LCS
The General Dynamics approach to the LCS features an innovative trimaran hull 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.
Dugan Shipway, president of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, said, "We're very pleased to have been selected by the Navy to continue development of the design for this next generation of surface combatants. Bath Iron Works is one of the Navy's longest-serving shipbuilding partners, and we are proud to have a role on the Littoral Combat Ship."
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 small surface craft.
Key characteristics of the ship proposed by the General Dynamics team include:
Bath Iron Works is the prime contractor on the program. Austal USA, of Mobile, Ala., a subsidiary of Australian shipbuilder Austal Ships, is supporting final design efforts for the team's aluminum and steel trimaran warship. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, of Arlington, Va., is leading the ship's open-architecture based Core Mission System design and integration from its Pittsfield, Mass. facility.
Other team members include CAE of Leesburg, Va.; BAE Systems, Rockville, Md.; Maritime Applied Physics Corporation, Baltimore, Md.; Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, Baltimore, Md.; and three other General Dynamics companies: Armament and Technical Products (Burlington, Vt.), Electric Boat (Groton, Conn.) and General Dynamics Canada (Ottawa, Ontario).
Austal's Executive Chairman John Rothwell said yesterday's announcement of the award was "a very positive indication that the company would soon be building its first ship for the U.S. Navy.
"The team is now in the final stage before the first construction contracts are awarded, and we expect this to lead to a shipbuilding contract, probably in the second half of next year," he said.
Austal would build the lead and follow-up ships at its shipyard in Mobile, Alabama. Austal expects that it may begin constructing its first vessel in late 2005 or early 2006, a time frame that suits the company's plans for staged development of its U.S. facilities and workforce to the level required for efficient manufacture of vessels of this size. Orders for the next series of operational ships are expected to be placed while the initial vessels are being evaluated.
Commenting on the development of Austal's defense business Rothwell said recent successes pointed to the possibility for continued growth in this market.
"LCS alone has the potential to expand our U.S. operations to be larger than our current Australian shipbuilding activities, and there is another significant U.S. military project for high-speed theatre support vessels in the offing," he said.
"The company's important role in the LCS program substantially raises our international profile in military circles and we are also examining other opportunities for further development of our defense business," Rothwell added.
In the longer term this could include the design and construction of larger naval ships in Australia, including LCS type vessels for international navies which may follow the lead of the US. Other navies are already examining the use of high speed ships for both combat and support operations and in this regard the selection of the General Dynamics team for the final design stage is an important endorsement of Austal's innovative aluminium ship technology.
"Being asked to complete a design for a new generation of warship for the world's largest and most powerful navy is clear recognition of our leadership in the field of fast ships for defense applications," Rothwell said. "It is also very satisfying that an Australian-owned company can export such important technology to a globally significant, cutting edge project such as this Ð it speaks volumes for the 'can do' attitude of our employees."
Construction of a 127 m long fast ferry based on the same trimaran hullform as proposed for the LCS is already well underway at Austal's shipbuilding facilities near Perth, Western Australia. The commercial and military activities involving the trimaran are complementary--completion of the ferry later this year will provide full scale validation of the LCS proposal and the U.S. Navy project adds further impetus to the already strong interest being shown in trimarans by ferry operators.