JUNE 30, 2015 — Austal USA's Mobile, AL, shipyard yesterday hosted a keel-laying ceremony today for the future USS Manchester (LCS 14), marking the first significant milestone in the vessel's construction. This ship is the fifth Independence variant littoral combat ship (LCS) built at Austal under a 10-ship, $3.5 billion block buy contract awarded in 2010.
"It has been said that building a high-tech Littoral Combat Ship is more akin to making a spacecraft than a traditional warship," said the ship's sponsor, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). "These ships and their technology are impressive. But what is always most impressive, to me is the professionalism and excellence of the officers and sailors who serve on these vessels. We are also grateful to the engineers, the welders, the machinists, the metalworkers and electricians – all the men and women who are working as a team to build the USS Manchester. I am honored and humbled to be her official ship sponsor."
Senator Shaheen authenticated the keel by welding her initials onto an aluminum plate that will be placed in the keel.
Austal's modular approach to shipbuilding means that 36 of the 37 modules used to form the 127-m aluminum trimaran are already being fabricated. For Austal, keel laying marks the beginning of final assembly. Nineteen modules have been moved from Austal's Module Manufacturing Facility (MMF) and erected in the final assembly bay in their pre-launch position. The remaining 18 modules will follow over the coming months.
"With 19 modules of Manchester already erected, and the christening of Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) just a few short weeks ago, it's exciting to see just how well the LCS program is maturing here," said Craig Perciavalle, president of Austal USA. "This milestone would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of Austal's talented design and production team."
Austal's LCS program delivered USS Independence (LCS 2) in 2009 and USS Coronado (LCS 4) in 2013. Seven additional LCS are under construction at the shipyard. The Navy conducted acceptance trials on the future USS Jackson (LCS 6) last week, while the future USS Montgomery (LCS 8) is preparing for builders trials later this year. The future USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) was christened June 13, and the future USS Omaha (LCS 12) will complete final assembly and prepare for launch later this summer. Modules for the future USS Tulsa (LCS 16) and the future USS Charleston (LCS 18) are in the early phases of construction.
Austal is also building ten 103-meter (338-foot) Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV) for the U.S. Navy under a $1.6 billion block-buy contract. USNS Trenton (JHSV 5) marked the fifth vessel in this class to be delivered since the inception of the program. Both USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) and USNS Millinocket (JHSV 3) are on humanitarian missions, in Central America and Southwest Asia, respectively.