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New Navy Ship Produced in Mobile Begins Testing

By Associated Press

Mobile AL – The Independence, a Navy warship designed for near shore operations, rolled off the production line at Austal's shipyard in Mobile.

Austal CEO Bob Browning said the Littoral Combat Ship, or LCS, took 27 months to build. It entered the water Saturday night for testing and will be christened at a ceremony later this year.

"It only draws a draft of little under 12 feet for a ship that size, so it's capable of doing anti-submarine warfare, mine detection avoidance it's a very, very flexible platform," said Browning.

Browning said Austal will break ground soon on a modular manufacturing facility in the port. If the Navy approves, Austal hopes to produce six warships a year and double its workforce.

However, the price tag on each prototype vessel has risen past the half- billion-dollar mark after an initial estimate of about $220 million, causing some members of Congress to be hesitant about additional funding.

The Navy ultimately wants its overall fleet to include 313 vessels, including 55 of the LCS type, and early this month requested funding for three more LCS over the next few years.

The Navy has set a $460 million price cap on each of those vessels, and Congress has approved funding for only one so far.

Austal is part of a General Dynamics-led team including Bath Iron Works of Maine that built the aluminum-hulled Independence, or LCS-2. The LCS-1, Freedom, is a steel-hulled ship being built by a Lockheed Martin Corp. team in Wisconsin's Marinette Marine Corp.,

The Austal-built ship is a 417-foot vessel that boasts an unusual trimaran design, essentially a long, slender monohull flanked by a pair of smaller side hulls. The weight of the LCS is about 2,500 tons

Austal officials said the design offers the stability to support an enormous flight deck capable of supporting the Navy's largest helicopter, the H-53, and provides excellent seakeeping, the ability to hold steady in rough seas, at speeds of more than 40 knots.

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