Austal USA has secured a detailed design and construction contract for the US Navy’s two towing, salvage, and rescue ships (T-ATS 11 and 12).

The latest award follows the initial $3.6m contract for the functional design of the Navajo-class T-ATS announced in June this year.

The $145m (A$198.5m) fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract modification has options for up to three additional T-ATS ships.

The options, if exercised, will bring the total value of the contract to $385m (A$528.6m).

The contract marks the first steel new ship construction programme for Austal USA.

The company will use its ship manufacturing and other technical expertise that include lean manufacturing principles, modular construction, and moving assembly lines.

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Austal USA’s new advanced steel production facility is expected to be opened in April next year.

Construction of the $100m facility started in March last year.

Austal USA president Rusty Murdaugh said: “The Austal USA team is excited to get to work on this programme and leverage our new steel manufacturing line to support the US Navy’s and US Coast Guard’s requirements for steel ships.

“Our consistent on-budget and on-schedule delivery of quality ships continues to lead the industry. Our highly skilled workforce prides itself on maintaining the excellence our customers have come to know and expect from Austal.”

The Navajo-class is a new series of T-ATS being constructed for the US Navy.

The new ships will provide ocean-going tug, salvage, and rescue capabilities to the US Navy to support its fleet operations.

The navy can deploy them to support a range of missions, such as towing, rescue, salvage, humanitarian assistance, oil spill response and wide-area search and surveillance operations.