Austal USA began the construction of LCU 1710, the first of three U.S. Navy Landing Craft Utility (LCU) ships, in a ceremony at its Mobile, Ala. shipyard last week.  The shipbuilding company was awarded a $91.5 million contract in September 2023 for the three LCUs and associated support efforts.

During the ceremony, U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant General Karsten S. Heckl, Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration, emphasized the strategic value and versatility of the LCU for the Navy-Marine Corps team. General Heckl highlighted the crucial role these landing craft play in enhancing sea-based Marine Air-Ground Task Forces and Marine Expeditionary Units, providing unparalleled flexibility to maneuver personnel and equipment in challenging environments.

Dave Growden, vice president of new construction programs at Austal USA, expressed eagerness to commence construction on these naval assets. “Having General Heckl join the Austal USA team today in honor of this milestone sends a strong message on the critical role this platform plays in supporting expeditionary operations for the Navy and Marine Corps.  We are excited to roll these vessels down the assembly line and into the fleet,” Growden said at the ceremony. 

LCUs are utilized in amphibious assault operations to transport vehicles, personnel, and cargo from sea-to-shore and vice versa. These connectors boast a heavy-lift capability, equivalent to approximately seven C-17 aircraft in payload capacity. 

Key specifications of the LCU 1700 class, as outlined by NAVSEA, include diesel propulsion with Kort nozzles, twin shafts generating 500 hp sustained power each. The 139’x31’ vessels can reach 11 knots and achieve a range of 1,200 nm when running at eight knots.  

The LCU 1700 class can accommodate 14 crew and carry various payloads such as two M1A1 tanks, 350 combat troops, or 400 persons, or 170 short tons of cargo. The vessels contain armament mounts for four crew operated weapons, commercial navigation radar, a military communications suite, and an Amphibious Assault Direction System. 

Austal USA’s steel line has been active since beginning operation two years ago.  Steel shipbuilding production is ongoing for two Navy Towing, Salvage and Rescue Ships (T-ATS) and the Navy’s 90,800 square-foot Auxiliary Floating Dry Dock Medium (AFDM).  Austal USA also holds multi-ship contracts for the Navy’s TAGOS-25 ocean surveillance ship and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) program which is scheduled to start construction this summer.