|Austal has won the contract to design and build the US Department of Defence’s next generation multi-use platform, the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), as part of a program potentially worth over US$1.6 billion.
As Prime contractor, Austal will design and construct the first 103-metre JHSV, with options for 9 additional vessels expected to be exercised between FY09 and FY13.
Similar to the Austal-built “WestPac Express” operated by the US Marines for the past seven years, the JHSV will be capable of transporting troops and their equipment, supporting humanitarian relief efforts, operating in shallow waters and reaching speeds in excess of 35 knots fully loaded. The vessels will be a joint-use platform operated by both the United States Army and Navy.
Austal Managing Director Bob Browning said, “Being selected as Prime contractor for a major US Department of Defence shipbuilding program demonstrates Austal’s capabilities as a defence supplier. Austal is very proud to have been selected to build an important part of the US Navy’s fleet. This 10 vessel program is an important step in Austal's strategy to create longer-term, more predictable earnings for our investors."
The vessels will be built at Austal’s US shipyard located in Mobile, Alabama, where work is continuing on the first phase of a new state-of-the-art Modular Manufacturing Facility (MMF). Upon completion in mid-2009, the first half of the 70,000 m2 MMF will be available for the fabrication of all JHSV modules.
Austal USA’s 1000-strong workforce, which is currently completing the US Navy’s 127 metre Littoral Combat Ship “Independence” (LCS 2), as well as a 113 metre high speed catamaran for Hawaii Superferry, will grow to more than 1500 as a result of the JHSV programme.
“As demonstrated by the two Hawaii Superferry vessels recently constructed at our Mobile, Alabama facilities, our US shipyard has the capability to deliver large high speed advanced aluminium platforms on time and on budget - a capability which will be further enhanced upon completion of the MMF and the expansion of our US workforce,” Mr Browning said.
Sea trials of the recently-christened “Independence” (LCS 2) are scheduled to commence early next year. Mr Browning said the US Navy’s ongoing commitment to a 55-vessel LCS program, as part of its 313 ship fleet, meant there was strong chance Austal would be awarded a second LCS in early 2009.
Austal Chairman John Rothwell said successfully bidding as Prime contractor for the JHSV programme was a fantastic result for the company, which had taken significant steps towards advancing its standing as a defence supplier.
“Austal’s US Defence security clearance was an important factor in winning this contract along with the success of “WestPac Express”, which has been successfully serving with the US Marines in Okinawa, Japan for more than seven years,” Mr Rothwell said.
Austal is teamed with General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, who will design, integrate, and test the JHSV’s electronic systems, including an Open Architecture Computing Infrastructure, internal and external communications, electronic navigation, aviation, and armament systems.