When she’s finished, the future USS Mobile will join the U.S. Navy’s growing fleet of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) as a functional testament to the city where many of the vessels were built.
The ship’s name is the result of the partnership between Austal USA, the city of Mobile and the Navy that has had major impacts on the area’s economy and workforce since 2006.
Over the past 13 years, Austal has built and delivered nine of its Independence-variant LCS to the Navy. Another six are currently under construction in the shipyard and four additional vessels are funded but their construction won’t begin until others are completed.
Those contracts to build the LCS and the Navy’s Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) vessels have allowed Austal to grow its U.S footprint exponentially and create new jobs locally. Today, Austal employees more than 4,000 skilled trades people from both sides of Mobile Bay.
Michelle Bowden, a spokesperson for Austal, said Mobile has a “noteworthy partnership” with the company and has contributed to its success by providing the infrastructure needed to support its employees and by assisting with the cost of major expansion projects in the past.
In turn, Austal USA has invested more than $470 million into its manufacturing facility in Mobile, which is now the fifth largest shipyard building ships for the Navy. The USS Mobile is a testament to that mutually beneficial relationship, and Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle said this week the company is “excited to build a great warship named after our hometown.”
“The hard work and dedication of thousands of Mobilians, along with support from this great city, made this possible — something everyone should be proud of,” Perciavalle added. “We can’t wait to get the future USS Mobile into the fleet to help defend our freedom across the globe.”
The USS Mobile is still under construction, but Bowden said roughly 50 percent of the work on the ship has already been completed. A keel authentication ceremony was held for the vessel in December, and it’s expected to be christened by the end of the year and delivered in 2020.
“The city of Mobile will play a huge role in bringing the ship to life as the host city for the commissioning ceremony in early 2021, which will be open to the public,” Bowden said.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson said he was happy to see the city name on one of the LCS vessels that have helped redefine shipbuilding in Mobile. He told Lagniappe earlier this week the impact Austal has had on the city and its surrounding areas is “almost off the scale.”
“With the number of people they employ, the ships they’re building and the image change it was for our city — Austal is hugely important,” he said. “We’re tremendously grateful, not only for what they’ve done already, but because of what we predict they’re going to do in the future.”
Austal is betting on a future in Mobile, too.
The company has already secured contracts to build additional LCS and EPF vessels and in January was awarded a $16.3 million contract to perform extended post-delivery work on other Navy ships. For the first time that work will be performed in Mobile versus the West Coast.
According to Bowden, Austal’s current workload alone would keep the shipyard and its workers busy until at least 2025.
“We’re always looking to extend existing contracts that meet our customer’s emerging requirements as we did recently with our EPF line with ships 13 and 14,” Bowden said. “We also look to acquire new business opportunities like we recently have within our services business.”
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