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Littoral Ship Production: Full Speed Ahead

Jan. 13, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By CHRISTOPHER P. CAVAS   |   Comments
For the first time, two US Navy littoral combat ships are seen in production at the same time. The Coronado, left, and Jackson are being completed at Austal USA's shipyard in Mobile, Ala., which is in full-rate production with the LCS and Joint High Speed Vessel programs.
For the first time, two US Navy littoral combat ships are seen in production at the same time. The Coronado, left, and Jackson are being completed at Austal USA's shipyard in Mobile, Ala., which is in full-rate production with the LCS and Joint High Speed Vessel programs. (Christopher P. Cavas / Staff)
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WASHINGTON — The US capital’s politics are a mess, the Pentagon is muddled and observers might be excused for thinking that naval development is stalled. But out in the manufacturing yards that supply the US Navy with ships, the atmosphere is anything but quiet. Quite the contrary, from New England to Virginia to the Gulf Coast and elsewhere, shipyards have hired workers, expanded and improved facilities and — at least for now — are humming at near-full-rate production.

Key to this activity are the two major littoral programs, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV). While the future of the Navy’s planned 52-ship total LCS buy is in question, Lockheed Martin’s Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipbuilding partner and Austal USA in mid-December each launched the first ship of a 10-ship block buy contract, and the last of those ships won’t be delivered until after 2020. Austal is also cooking with the JHSV — the third ship of 10 is about to be delivered, and the fourth will soon hit the water.

At the other yards, the restart of the DDG 51 destroyer program is in swing at General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works and at the Ingalls yard of Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), and Bath also has in hand all three DDG 1000-class ships. Ingalls is rolling with National Security Cutter production for the Coast Guard, is at work on the 10th and 11th units of the LPD 17 amphibious ship program, is about to deliver the assault ship America and is working on the next ship of that class.

The submarine builders at GD’s Electric Boat and HII’s Newport News yards are working on two ships per year, and Newport News is working on four aircraft carriers — the newly launched Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) and its follow-on CVN 79, the Abraham Lincoln’s three-year refueling overhaul, and initial dismantling of the decommissioned Enterprise. GD’s National Steel and Shipbuilding yard in San Diego is working on three mobile landing platform/afloat staging base ships and has a new commercial contract in hand.

Highlighting these developments, we talk in this issue with the Navy’s director of surface warfare, the head of the Ingalls and Austal USA shipyards, and with the Navy’s top acquisition official.

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