The President of Austal USA remains bullish on the company’s future despite recent attacks on the Littoral Combat Ship program.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter wants to cut the program from 52 to 40 ships. A General Accounting Office report that says the ships don’t have the firepower or survivability that they need.
But with four ships out on the Mobile River and six ships in the bays under construction, Austal USA is busy as it’s ever been. Employment remains about 4,000. That makes Austal Mobile’s largest industrial employer and the fifth largest shipyard in the U.S.
“Our approach has been to never overreact to the challenging times or some negative information that comes out and never overreact to the positive information that comes out,” said Austal President Craig Perciavalle.
Perciavalle says building the 13 LCS under contract will keep things busy on the Mobile waterfront thru 2020 at least. In the meantime, Austal engineers are busy redesigning the ship under Navy guidelines to make them “fast frigates” in the future. When that happens the Navy could choose one shipyard to build of all of that class of ship. Right now Austal builds half the LCS, with the other half made by Lockheed in Wisconsin.
“We are very, very confident in the capabilities and flexibilities that our sea frame and solution has in meeting the long term needs of the Navy and we’re at a competitive advantage there for sure,” Perciavalle said.
Despite questions from the defense secretary and funding challenges in Congress, Perciavalle says the best news about the LCS is that Austal’s customer loves it.
“The Navy’s focus over the past few years and their support for the program has been pretty darn consistent,” he said. “The Navy loves the ships. All the feedback that we are getting is that these are ships that they need, these are ships that they want, and these are ships that they like.”
Perciavalle says the critical GAO report was based on “old data” and that the USS Coronado (LCS-4) recently passed its survivability tests.
Perciavalle says Austal’s other Navy program remains strong. High Speed Vessels are now called EPF’s.
Austal has delivered six to the Navy, with four more under contract, and another two ordered but not funded.