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Bonner On Austal And The Littoral Combat Ship Program

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Congressman Jo Bonner (R) from Mobile praised Austal and the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program in his most recent column. Representative Bonner said, “I recently joined Mary Sessions, wife of Senator Jeff Sessions, and local officials at Austal USA to witness the authentication of the keel for the newest Independence Class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the future USS Montgomery.”

Bonner said that the USS Montgomery, which honors Alabama’s capital is the fourth LCS built at Austal’s aluminum shipyard in Mobile. The Pentagon has awarded Austal a $3.5 billion contract to produce up to ten LCS for the Navy. Six are already funded.

Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn said on Facebook, “I was honored to take part in the U.S.S. Montgomery Keel Laying in Mobile today. Pictured below with Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle as well as the Montgomery delegation attendees. Austal employs nearly 4,000 individuals in our great state and we’re proud to have them in Alabama.”

Rep. Bonner said, “Austal isn’t only making waves with its high-tech LCS design; it also captured the Navy’s attention with its Joint High Speed Vessel or JHSV. In 2008, Austal was selected as prime contractor to design and build the first Joint High Speed Vessel, with options for nine additional ships between FY09 and FY13.  All nine options have been exercised, providing Austal with ten JHSV construction contracts worth a total $1.6 billion.”

Austal produces both the LCS and the JHSV in Mobile. Mobilians built “Liberty” ships (cargo ships) that were vital to winning World War II along the Mobile River.

The Littoral Combat Ship is a new class of multipurpose warships that are small enough to operate effectively close to shore….what the Navy calls the littoral combat zone.

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Rep. Bonner said that his wife, Janée, was in Marinette, Wisconsin, for the authentication of the keel of another LCS, the future USS Little Rock (LCS-9). It is named for the guided missile cruiser that the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, had once served on. Lockheed Martin and Austal both hold separate contracts to build different versions of the LCS. Rep. Bonner said that each class of LCS offers special capabilities for the Navy. The Austal version is an all aluminum trimaran design while the Lockheed Martin built class of LCS’s are a more conventional design.

The two classes were originally designed to compete against one another for a single LCS contract, but the Navy found that both were effective and the two designs were so different that having both offered the Navy advantages to just selecting one contractor to give the entire LCS project too. The LCS is reminiscent of the massive fleet of small destroyers and destroyer escorts that the Navy operated during World War II and for decades thereafter. As destroyers gained more missions and more capabilities they have grown bigger over the years. Modern destroyers are as big as and are more capable than many classes of World War II era cruisers. While today’s destroyers remain the backbone of the Navy’s deep water fleet, the Navy realized that there was a need for smaller classes of ship which can operate in the shallower waters close to shore where the action is to support special forces and amphibious units while also being able to combat naval mines, pirates, fast attack craft, and other contingencies.

Rep. Bonner said, “With the support and confidence of Navy leadership, the LCS program is pushing ahead in the shipyards, in the halls of Congress and at sea. On June 14th, the House overwhelmingly passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 (NDAA), which authorizes $1.8 billion for an additional four LCS (two of which will be built in Mobile and two in Wisconsin). The House Defense Appropriations Act, which also provides full funding to continue LCS construction, is expected to come before the full House for a vote sometime this summer.”

Congressman Jo Bonner represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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