Austal believes that is one step from a construction contract for the United States Navyís Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) project after the US Department of Defense announced that it has awarded a US$78.8 million final design contract to prime contractor Bath Iron Works (General Dynamics team). The US Navy has identified a need for 60 vessels, with a total value of around US$14 billion, over a 15 year period. Austal is the vessel designer and builder for the General Dynamics team, which is one of two consortiums selected for the final design phase. The contracts include options to complete detail design and construction of a lead ship of this new high-speed surface ship class and it is anticipated that both teams will have contract options exercised to build two vessels each.
Construction of a 127 metre long fast ferry based on the same trimaran hullform as proposed for the LCS is already well underway at Austalís shipbuilding facilities near Perth, Western Australia. The commercial and military activities involving the trimaran are complementary - completion of the ferry later this year will provide full scale validation of the LCS proposal and the US Navy project adds further impetus to the already strong interest being shown in trimarans by ferry operators.
If successful, Austal will build the lead and follow-up ships at its shipyard in Mobile (Alabama). Although the ships will be built in the United States, there has already been a substantial benefit flow back to Australia where all ship design is carried out. Austal has already assembled a dedicated team of over 50 naval architects, engineers and other designers for the final design phase, creating local employment in the process.
Outside the US market, Austal has substantial orders from the Royal Australian Navy and the Republic of Yemen. In the longer term this could include the design and construction of larger naval ships in Australia, including LCS type vessels for international navies which may follow the lead of the US. Other navies are already examining the use of high-speed ships for both combat and support operations.