MOBILE, Ala. – Austal christened USNS Choctaw County (JHSV 2) this week at its shipyard here. USNS Choctaw County is the second of nine Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV) Austal has under contract with the U.S. Navy as part of an overall 10-ship contract worth over $1.6 billion.
The ship was named Choctaw County, Austal said, to honor the contributions of the men and women of rural America. Three counties in America, located in Mississippi, Alabama, and Oklahoma, share the name. Twenty-nine women from the 1966 graduating class of Ackerman High School in Ackerman, Miss., served as the ship’s sponsors, with 18 participating in the ceremony. With the support of her classmates, Theresa Gilliam Pitts, a retired teacher, broke the traditional bottle of champagne across the bow to formally christen the ship.
The ceremony was held in Austal’s final assembly bay under the ship with more than 600 guests in attendance. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus was the principal speaker at the event.
Austal USA Interim president and CEO Brian Leathers said in a statement, “The Christening of this modern-day navy vessel is a testament to the pride and dedication exhibited by Austal USA’s shipbuilding team. We are honored to be building this new class of theatre support vessels and look forward to hearing of the success of their deployments around the world.”
The 338-foot-long aluminum catamarans are designed to be fast, flexible and maneuverable even in shallow waters, making them ideal for transporting troops and equipment quickly within a theater of operations. The ship has the ability to support a variety of operations, supporting the warfighter through traditional logistics missions, humanitarian support projects, disaster response or by supporting maritime law enforcement activities.
The JHSVs are capable of transporting 600 short tons of military troops, vehicles, supplies and equipment 1,200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots and can operate in shallow-draft, austere ports and waterways, providing U.S. forces added mobility and flexibility. The JHSVs’ aviation flight decks can support day and night flight operations. Each JHSV also has sleeping accommodations for up to 146 personnel and airline-style seating for up to 312.
Austal is currently under contract with the U.S. Navy to build nine 103-meter JHSVs under a 10-ship, $1.6 billion contract and five 127-meter Independence-variant LCS class ships, four of which are a part of a 10-ship, $3.5 billion contract.
For the LCS and JHSV programs, Austal, as prime contractor, is teamed with General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, a business unit of General Dynamics. As the ship systems integrator, General Dynamics is responsible for the design, integration and testing of the ship’s electronic systems including the combat system, networks, and seaframe control. General Dynamics’ proven open architecture approach allows for affordable and efficient capability growth as technologies develop.
These two contracts will require Austal to increase its Mobile, Alabama workforce to approximately 4,000 employees in order to fulfil the contract requirements. “With almost ten percent of these workers expected to reside in the neighboring states of Florida and Mississippi,” said Leathers in a statement, “we are proud that Austal is an engine of regional growth for the Gulf.”