Alabama-based Austal USA has recently celebrated the grand opening of its new construction facility located in Mobil. When added to the existing facility the new construction halls provide a combined total covered area of 16,500 square metres for ship production, roughly quadruple the existing facility. The new facility will be used to construct the recently announced order of a 127 metre Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) for the US Navy. Austal is the seaframe designer and builder as part of the General Dynamics Team. The official keel laying ceremony is expected to take place in early 2006.
The expansion adds two large bays (each 41 metres wide) under a common roof for module fabrication / erection and component storage, connected by 2 mezzanine levels in the centre, and 2 mezzanines on the outboard sides for shop space, material storage, and small assembly fabrication; two additional launch aprons in front of each bay; a combined wharf (bulkhead) length of 238 metres; and additional overhead cranes capable of lifting 80-ton modules in each bay.
The LCS will be the most advanced high-speed military craft in the world and is 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 hullform enables the highest payload per displacement tonne of any previous US Navy warship. It is envisioned that LCS class vessels will comprise a substantial portion of the future Navy fleet.