Austal has officially announced the first metal cutting on the company’s 15th Independence Class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS 30), the future USS Canberra, at its Alabama shipyard.
US President Donald Trump announced LCS 30 was to be named the USS Canberra in a joint press conference with then Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. The USS Canberra serves as a prime example of the close working relationship of the American-Australian alliance, with President Trump saying "there is no closer friendship".
At the time of the announcement, Turnbull highlighted the importance of Austal USA to the US-Australia alliance, saying, "The ship (USS Canberra) will be built by Austal in Mobile, Alabama, so you will have an Australian company with American workers, working and operating in the United States building ships for the US Navy."
Austal LCS program director Dave Growden had the honour of starting the router to cut the first piece of aluminium, signalling the start of construction. Growden is a 30+ year Austal veteran who competed his apprenticeship in Henderson before transferring to the US when the LCS program first started.
The Austal designed and built LCS is Australia’s biggest defence export. Nine ships are already in service with the US Navy with the 10th to join shortly, having recently completed acceptance trials. With the start of construction of LCS 30, five vessels are in various stages of construction with an additional four vessels on order.
The LCS is a 127-metre frigate-sized vessel that is highly manoeuvrable, lethal and adaptable. The ship is designed to support focused mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare missions. The Independence-variant LCS integrates new technology and capability to affordably support current and future capability of the US Navy, from deep water to littoral operations.
Austal CEO David Singleton welcomed the announcement and major industrial milestone, saying, "The team at Austal USA has cemented the company’s reputation in the United States for production efficiency and world leading technology in naval shipbuilding. It is a real honour for our company and the Littoral Combat Ship to represent the special relationship between Australia and the United States."
The future USS Canberra’s sponsor is Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne. A ship’s sponsor plays a unique role for the US Navy, becoming part of the ship’s history, as an honorary permanent member of the crew and advocate. The sponsor typically attends all milestone events of the ships, most notably the christening of the vessel where it receives its official name to enter service.
The role of the LCS is evolving as a key component in the US Navy’s ability to gain sea control through distributed lethality. Austal USA continues to deliver ships on time and on budget to support the needs of the fleet.
The Independence-variant LCS, along with Austal USA’s successful Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF), is designed, constructed and well positioned to meet the needs of the fleet today and into the future. The flexibility and capacity of the Austal USA shipyard, the Independence-variant LCS, and the EPF are well suited to rapidly and efficiently support the Navy’s desired fleet of 355 ships with affordable solutions.