The U.S. Navy has exercised contract options funding Austal’s acquisition of long lead-time material (LLTM) associated with the construction of two additional 103-meter Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV).

The award is valued at US $99,557,548.

Austal, as the prime contractor, was awarded the initial contract to design and build the first 103-meter JHSV in November 2008. General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems is the platform mission systems engineering agent responsible for the design, integration and test of the ship’s electronic mission systems, including an open architecture computing infrastructure, internal and external communications, electronic navigation, aviation and armament systems.

Spearhead (JHSV 1) is currently under construction in Austal’s Module Manufacturing Facility (MMF) with a Keel Laying Ceremony scheduled for Spearhead this summer. Keel Laying is the formal recognition of the start of a ship’s construction. In earlier times it was the “laying down” of the central or main timber making up the backbone of a vessel. Today, fabrication of the ship modules begins months before the units are actually joined. However, the keel laying symbolically recognizes the joining of modular components and the ceremonial beginning of a ship.

The contract included options for nine additional vessels to be awarded between FY09 and FY13 for a total value of up to US $1.6 billion. JHSV 2 is scheduled for commencement of construction in September 2010 and JHSV 3 in May 2011. The current award funds LLTM acquisition efforts for JHSV 4 and 5.

Austal USA President and COO, Joe Rella said, “This award signifies the Navy’s continued commitment to the JHSV Program, and confidence in Austal’s ability to reliably deliver the predecessor ships on time and budget. The long lead-time material contract award also ensures employment continuity for our workforce.”

Long lead-time material for JHSV 4 and 5 will include main propulsion engines, water jets, reduction gears and other major equipment items.

Similar to the Austal-built “WestPac Express” operated by the U.S. Marines for the past eight years, the JHSV will be capable of transporting troops and their equipment, supporting humanitarian relief efforts, 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.