By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
In his monthly newsletter, Congressman Jo Bonner announced that the U.S. Navy had exercised its option to buy two more littoral combat ships (LCS) from Austal USA. Austal’s Mobile shipyard continues to build cutting edge Aluminum ships for the United States Navy.
The two new LCSs will be the ‘Gabrielle Giffords’ (named after the Arizona Congresswoman who narrowly survived an assassin’s bullet to the head) and the ‘Omaha.’ Austal’s previous two LCS’s are the Independence and the Coronado. The Independence is still undergoing sea trials and the Coronado is nearing completion.
Austal USA’s current $3.5 billion contract with the U.S. Navy allows the Navy to buy up to ten LCSs vessels. Austal USA also has a Navy contract to build up to nine Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSVs) at its Mobile Shipyard. The first JHSV, the U.S.S. Spearhead was launched in September and will soon be delivered to the navy. The two Navy contracts will give Austal USA nearly $900 million in yearly revenue. AUSTAL has plans to hire over 4,000 employees by 2014.
U.S.S. Independence (LCS 2) was the first littoral combat ship that Austal USA delivered to the Navy. Lockheed Martin is building another class of LCS for the U.S. Navy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. U.S.S. Freedom (LCS 1) was the lead ship in that class. Independence-class LCS’s are trimarans while Freedom-class LCSs are mono hulled. Littoral combat ships can operate in shallower water than larger combat ships like destroyers and cruisers. The much more flexible and faster LCSs will replace the navy’s aging minesweepers.
The Independence-class LCS has a top speed of 44 knots, carries a crew of just 40 sailors, and can be specially configured for mine sweeping, sub hunting, operating unmanned aerial vehicles, operating helicopters, and can support Marine or Special forces operations. The cost is $704 million each, although the original navy estimate was that the LCS would cost just $220 million each.
The U.S. Navy plans call for building 55 LCSs with the first twenty being ten each of the Independence-class and Freedom-class. The U.S. Navy had originally proposed a competition between the two competing designs with winner take all; but eventually decided to split the order between both shipyards.
Austal is the largest builder of aluminum ships in the world. Austal has two shipyards: one in Western Australia and one in Mobile. Started in 1988, Austal has manufactured 220 vessels to date including warships, ferries, and luxury motor yachts.
Rep. Jo Bonner represents Alabama’s first district in the United States Congress.
Hash tags U.S.S. Gabriel Giffords LCS JHSV littoral combat ship Independence-class Navy Mobile Austal USA
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