WASHINGTON — Work on the U.S. Army’s next-generation landing craft, the Maneuver Support Vessel (Light), is well underway, the company building the boats announced Tuesday.

The Washington state-based Vigor Works laid the keel for the first boat at its Vancouver, Washington, facility, according to a company release.

Vigor Works was awarded a nearly $1 billion contract in 2017 for the MSV(L). The Army and Vigor Works will develop a full-scale prototype for the boat over the next four years, then move to initial production of four vessels in 2022. The total buy will be 36 MSV(L)s.

The boat was designed in conjunction with BMT.

The MSV(L) replaces the aging Mike Boats. The 100-foot MSV(L) will be able to haul one M1A2 Abrams tank, two Stryker armored vehicles with slat armor or four Joint Light Tactical Cehicles with trailers. It will have a top speed of 18 knots, 15 knots fully loaded and a range of about 350 miles.

The contract is a 10-year, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract. Vigor Works beat out four competitors for the job.

The Mike boats weren’t large enough, nor did they have the range required to haul modern Army equipment over the ranges necessary in a denied combat zone.

The boats are designed to operate at extended ranges, moving personnel, materiel and equipment from deep-draft sealift ships off the coast and bring it to inland waterways. It will be designed to bring its cargo to degraded ports, as well as unimproved or denied beachheads.