On January 10, 2012, Austal’s Mobile, Alabama shipyard completed the launch of the second 127-metre Independence-Variant Littoral Combat Ship, “Coronado” – LCS 4.
The roll-out marked Austal’s second use of an innovative self-propelled modular transporter system to transfer the ship from the yard’s final assembly bay onto a drydock for launch. This system was first used a few months ago, in September 2011, to successfully launch USNS “Spearhead” (JHSV 1). Austal and the US Navy collaborated in the design of a new set of keel stands to support the ship during construction and facilitate the transition from the assembly bay. Austal’s own self-propelled modular transporters (SPMTs) supplemented those of Berard Transportation of New Iberia, LA, to provide a total of 3,800 tons lift capacity, on some 104 axle lines.
In a three-step process, SPMTs lifted the entire ship and keel stands lifted the Coronado almost three feet and moved the Littoral Combat Ship into the moored dry dock. Supporting close to 2,000 tons, the SPMT operators; aided by tug captains; the dock master and the Austal launch master manoeuvred “Coronado” aboard the dry dock in an incident-free operation.
A major improvement in safety and efficiency, the new roll-out method has shaved hours off the transfer process, and serves as a capstone in Austal’s effort to reduce cost and time required in future LCS deliveries.
The LCS and dry dock were then transported down river by tug to BAE Systems Southeast Shipyard, Mobile, where the ship was ultimately floated free of the keel stands, and was manoeuvred from the drydock. The vessel was then towed back upriver to Austal’s facility, where it will undergo final outfitting and activation before sea trials and delivery to the US Navy.
The 127-metre Austal trimaran seaframe is the platform for the LCS’s mission and weapon systems. This seaframe provides superior seakeeping and aviation as a result of its long, slender central hull and smaller side hulls (“amahs”). The trimaran hullform provides a large internal mission deck with a high payload carrying capacity. Located above the mission bay is the enormous flight deck capable of conducting dual H-60 helicopter operations. The vertical location of the flight deck on the trimaran hull form provides the highest flight deck elevation on a combatant ship other than a major amphibious vessel or aircraft carrier.
The launch of “Coronado” (LCS 4) closely follows the christening of the 103-metre USNS “Spearhead” (JHSV 1) and the celebration of the keel laying ceremony for “Choctaw County” (JHSV 2). Modular construction has also begun on JHSV 3 and “Jackson” (LCS 6) – the first of the 10-ship US Navy contract awarded to Austal, as the prime contractor, a year ago – in Austal’s 65,000 square metre Module Manufacturing Facility (MMF). Austal also has “Montgomery” ( LCS 8 ) and JHSV 3 through JHSV 7 under contract.
For the LCS and JHSV programs, Austal is working in a partnership with General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics. As the ship systems integrator, General Dynamics is responsible for the design, integration and testing of the ship’s electronic systems including the combat system, networks, and seaframe control. General Dynamics’ proven open architecture approach provides affordable capabilities to the fleet quickly and efficiently.
Austal employs over 2,100 highly qualified shipbuilders, engineers and support staff in the United States and is steadily growing towards 4,000 employees.
Shipbuilding Tribune Staff, January 12, 2012; Image: austal