JUNE 26, 2013 — Austal yesterday held a keel-laying ceremony for the fourth Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), Montgomery (LCS 8), at its Mobile, Alabama, shipyard. The ship is the second LCS of ten awarded by the Navy to Austal, as prime contractor, and the keel laying ceremony is the sixth celebrated by Austal, as prime, in less than three years. During that time Austal's Mobile shipyard has grown tremendously, increasing by over 2,000 total employees, and doubling the size of the facility.
Mary Blackshear Sessions, the ship's sponsor, was present to weld her initials onto the keel plate as the Keel Authenticator. She was assisted by Kyle Hinton, an "A" Class welder who has been part of the Austal team since November, 2011.
Mrs. Sessions is the wife of U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). She was born in Montgomery, Ala., and grew up in Gadsden, Ala., graduating from Gadsden High School. Mrs. Sessions attended Huntingdon College in Montgomery, earning a degree in Education and taught school for four years after marrying Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. The Sessions have lived in Mobile, Ala. for 39 years. They have three grown married children and six grandchildren. One of their son-in-laws is serving as a Commander in the U.S. Navy.
A traditional keel-laying ceremony marks the first significant milestone in the construction of the ship. Austal's modular approach to shipbuilding means that 36 of the 37 modules that will become LCS 8 are already under construction. At Austal, therefore, keel-laying marks the beginning of final assembly.
Four modules have been moved from Austal's Module Manufacturing Facility (MMF), two of which are 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 statement during his address to the guests at the event, "The Montgomery will be a revolutionary Naval combatant; a cost-effective ship with incredible speed, mobility, flexibility and firepower that will serve our Nation well across the globe, during times of both peace and war."
Mr. Perciavalle went on to say "I would like to recognize the employees of Austal USA. Your hard work, incredible craftsmanship and creativity are what's bringing Montgomery to life. Be proud of this accomplishment and in knowing just how important your efforts are in supporting our great Navy by bringing this incredible warship to life."
Austal is the prime contractor for a $3.5 billion contract with the U.S. Navy to build ten 127-meter Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship class vessels. Austal is also the prime contractor for a $1.6 billion contract to build ten 103-meter Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV), two of which have already been delivered to the Navy.
For the LCS and JHSV programs, Austal, as prime contractor, is teamed with General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics. For the JHSV program, General Dynamics is responsible for the design, integration and testing of the ship's navigation and communication systems, C4I and aviation systems. As the Independence-variant LCS ship systems integrator, General Dynamics is responsible for the design, integration and testing of the ship's sea frame control, navigation and communication systems, C4I and aviation systems.