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US Navy orders Trimaran Littoral Combat Ship

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October 16, 2005

US Navy orders Trimaran Littoral Combat Ship

US Navy orders Trimaran Littoral Combat Ship

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October 17, 2005 The US Navy has announced the award of a construction contract for the Austal designed General Dynamics Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) project. The US $223 million contract for the first of two planned “Flight 0” vessels follows a similar order for the single-hulled Lockheed Martin LCS last December. The two LCS ships will be evaluated and the contracts allow for up to two of each of the two designs to be constructed prior to a decision on how many of each will be ordered, with a fleet of between 50 and 100 LCSs expected to be required over the next 30 years. The General Dynamics LCS is a far different ship to the Lockheed Martin LCS with the secret to its remarkable speed and agility being the aluminium trimaran hull. The LCSs will be the most advanced high speed military craft in the world and are intended to operate in coastal areas globally. As a key part of the US Navy fleet, they will be highly manoeuvrable and configurable to support mine detection / elimination, anti-submarine and surface warfare. The trimaran hull form permits the ship to carry a large capacity of weapons packages with space to land two helicopters.

The two LCS ships will be evaluated and the contracts allow for up to two of each of the two designs to be constructed prior to a decision on how many of each will be ordered, with a fleet of between 50 and 100 LCSs expected to be required over the next 30 years.

The US $223 million contract for the first of two planned “Flight 0” vessels was awarded to prime contractor Bath Iron Works, a General Dynamics company which has teamed with Austal, the designer and builder of the LCS seaframe. The aluminium ships will be built at the Austal USA yard in Mobile, Alabama.

Approximately half of the contract value will be the Austal component for construction of the seaframe, representing the company’s largest ever individual contract. Today’s announcement follows the awarding in May 2004 of a US $78.8 million design contract to the General Dynamics Littoral Combat Ship team to design the “Flight 0” vessel.

The basis of Austal’s seaframe design is the 127 metre trimaran hull “Benchijigua Express”, recently delivered as a passenger-vehicle ferry to a leading Spanish ferry operator. The benefits of this hull in commercial service are better seakeeping, passenger comfort and efficiency. For naval operators these features and a beam (width) of 31.6 metres combine to provide a ship with superior speed (in excess of 40 knots / 74 km/h), flexibility, shallow draft, payload and significant aviation capabilities over conventional designs. Of note, the ship carries two large helicopters which can be operated in adverse sea conditions because of the extremely stable trimaran hull.

The LCSs will be the most advanced high speed military craft in the world and are intended to operate in coastal areas globally. As a key part of the US Navy fleet, they will be highly manoeuvrable and configurable to support mine detection / elimination, anti-submarine and surface warfare. The trimaran hull form permits the ship to carry a large capacity of weapons packages .

Austal’s Executive Chairman, Mr John Rothwell, said the company’s first shipbuilding contract for the US Navy was of great significance for its size and a solid reflection of the company’s and Australia’s increasing reputation as a quality naval defence supplier.

“In 1999 as part of our strategy to diversify and expand our operations, Austal combined with a local partner to establish a completely new shipyard in the United States specialising in aluminium construction, known as Austal USA.

“With the potential to outgrow the size of our Australian operations, the future of the US facility will be focused on defence projects, not only with the LCS vessels but also with high speed cargo and troop vessels as the relevance of our high speed vessel technology becomes increasingly relevant to the Army and Marines as well.”

Mr Rothwell said he was confident Austal’s unique trimaran hull design, as with the commercial variant, would prove to be a significant step forward for defence applications and will ultimately become the preferred choice for the LCS fleet.

“We believe the LCS and similar vessels using the trimaran hull design have significant global applications as the relevance and cost of conventional fleets and national security needs continue to come under increased pressure.”

Throughout the year construction work on a new production facility, incorporating two large assembly halls, has almost quadrupled the size of the original Austal USA facility in readiness for production of the LCSs. An official opening ceremony is planned for November 17, 2005 with a keel laying ceremony for the first vessel expected in early December.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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